We joined Surrey Virtual School to take a group of displaced young people for a day at Jamie’s Farm in Lewes. The impact of increased isolation and confinement during lockdown was a real concern and this was a great opportunity to reconnect and be outside.
Jamie’s Farm is all about being a catalyst for change in the lives of disadvantaged young people, by providing a uniquely blended experience of farming, a sense of family and a therapeutic approach.
We immediately felt welcomed, accepted and calm. The staff are clearly skilled at building a rapport even without a common language and started a kick-about on one side of the lawn and a simultaneous game of cricket on the other, so when it was time to head off to the different activities, there was no trace of shyness from anyone.
The farm itself is beautiful and our young people mentioned time and again that they were reminded of home. “That tree… that field… the sheep…”, said with a smile, suggested the weaving of positive threads to the past.
Despite it being the hottest day of the year so far, they threw themselves into every task with gusto.
Ed introduced us to the dog, Lambassador the happy sheep, the goats, the pigs and Cheepie, an 'accidental hand reared cockerel', who likes to ride about on people's heads. Cheepie settled happily on M's baseball cap (with an indignant shriek when M went through a doorway and forgot to duck) and the others begged to try too, until a fat and wet deposit was enthusiastically dropped down J's neck, causing hilarity amongst everyone, and leaving Cheepie with no hope of being invited on to any more heads.
The day, with the space, the food, and the friendliness of the team, felt like a break from the present. In the final circle, when asked to score their day out of 10, everyone firmly chose 10, or in some cases 11. "It was like my holiday," A said "I want to stay here, with Lambassador."
It was just one day, but we were blown away by the care, professionalism and unflappable good humour of the team there. Jamie's Farm is clearly a very special place, doing marvellous things for young people, and we really hope we will be able to work with them again, and soon.