Big Leaf Foundation has grown from a single summer camp to year round provision supporting displaced young people across Surrey. Here's our story.
Our first Summer Camp
In Summer 2017, our co-founders Vicki and Kayte took a group of 12 displaced young people on a residential trip to Trill Farm in Devon. Kayte was working in a Further Education college at the time and had seen first-hand the social isolation that many displaced students experienced during the long summer holiday. Together, and with the support of Elmbridge CAN, Trill Farm and social workers, they organised a week-long residential.
The week was transformative - for the young people, for Vicki and Kayte, and for the team at Trill. It was a chance to talk, build friendships, eat well, switch off from daily stressors and have fun.
It showed what's possible here, when displaced young people are welcomed into the community and supported... and through this, the idea for Big Leaf was born.
Increasing Surrey-wide provision
In January 2018, Vicki and Kayte met Jocelyn and started talking about how to support young people to access these opportunities all year round. They created the structure for Big Leaf and in December 2018 we were granted charitable status.
We now run projects and events throughout the year that focus on combating social isolation and improving wellbeing for the young people we support. These include vocational training opportunities, residential workshops, creative arts, ESOL, sports, and equine-assisted learning.
In 2021, we supported over 200 displaced young people from 15 different countries.
Launching our Casework service
In April 2020, we hired our first caseworker. Expanding into casework meant we could offer more personalised support to our beneficiaries.
We now provide tailored advice and advocacy to young people struggling to understand and access the services to which they are entitled- be it welfare, legal, healthcare, education or recreation.
Much of our casework provision is around giving young people emotional support and acting as an advocate for them. We know it makes a difference for young people to feel that someone is helping them and that they are not alone. In 2021, we supported 58 young people through casework.
Growing our community
Community is at the heart of what we do. One of our key aims is to cultivate a genuine welcome for the young people we support and we are exceptionally grateful to the donors, partner organisations and the wider community who give their time, expertise and commitment and without whom we couldn't do this work.
Over the last five years Big Leaf has built a network of more than 35 community and multi-agency partners and a team of dedicated volunteers who together give over 3000 hours a year to supporting displaced young people.
We are proud to be an established and trusted organisation offering support to resettled young people in Surrey and look forward to continuing to grow our community.