Ellie Price, about 4 years ago
“I'd say the change in me is about 100%. When I first got here I couldn't actually string two words together. But then something kicks in…all the confidence it gives you is brilliant…now I believe that I can actually do whatever work that I want to do" – Willowdene Farm resident
“They have to come along and get stuck into every qualification on offer, getting the most out of the experience and getting that work ethic. We hope that this is the end of their offending lives and we want to help give them the skills to move into a purposeful lifestyle" – Matt Home, Director, Willowdene Farm
In 1988, John and Jenny Home established Willowdene Farm on 60 acres of land in South Shropshire. However, the purpose of this farm was quite different from that of most others. John and Jenny believed passionately that every individual has the right to live the life they were designed for; able to discover their true self and explore a new purposeful lifestyle, able to rejoin their community and become a purposeful and active member of society. They established Willowdene Farm as a residential rehabilitation centre, providing long-term residential work for men trapped in destructive cycles of offending and/or substance misuse. Their aim was to bring about lasting change, to help these individuals become fulfilled physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Providing individuals with a much-needed change of environment is vital, as a new setting can help point them in a new, positive direction. The relaxing and inviting atmosphere at Willowdene Farm also leaves individuals feeling safe to make mistakes and take risks, knowing that they will be well supported and coached during their time there. In addition to a range of agricultural buildings and teaching facilities, Willowdene Farm has a well-established commercial horticulture site that consists of 6 large greenhouses and 8 commercial poly tunnels. This allows individuals to engage in a wide range of purposeful and meaningful activities. Through these activities, ranging from woodwork and forestry to plumbing, horticulture and animal husbandry, individuals are able to:
- - Develop confidence and self-esteem
- - Try new experiences
- - Develop new skills and unearth pre-existing ones
- - Build a new way of thinking
The positive connections that Willowdene Farm clients are able to build with others and with their environment are vital to bringing about lasting change; Willowdene Farm believes strongly that building appropriate relationships is key to breaking the cycle of the past.
As well as gaining some basic qualifications (for instance in plumbing or welding), some of the Willowdene Farm community are enrolled at Telford College, by special arrangement, for further training. Such experiences can form part of an individual's CV, help to open up potential employment opportunities and ultimately move them in a positive, meaningful direction.
In 2012, Willowdene Farm established RITE (Relational, Inspiring, Trusting and Engaging) Social Enterprisewhich provides day care provision such as the new Specified Activity Requirement and Adult Attendance Centres. The Care Farm Skills Training Programme is a Specified Activity Requirement that has been developed. It aims, over the course of 14 weeks, to get ex-offenders work-ready. Each programme ends with a special graduation ceremony, held to recognise the students' achievements.
A new Residential Intervention Programme has also been established as a result of the success of Willowdene's residential rehabilitation programme. The programme, which runs for 6 weeks, is available to individuals who have been on day placements at the farm and identified as in need of extra help. Read Tom's story about his time on the Residential Intervention Programme at Willowdene.
“I got a Community Order with a Specified Activity at Willowdene. During my time there I was offered the Residential Intervention Programme where I would live at the farm for six weeks and get help. I knew this was my chance to make changes to my life, but I was worried I wasn't strong enough to do it. I was wrong, it has been the best thing I could have done. Everyone has been great here and really supportive, it felt like a family. I couldn't believe how friendly the people are here compared to what I knew and they are willing to help you. It has given me routine and set tasks and goals and proper food for a change. The therapy has helped me look at my issues and understand what I am all about. I have cried here, something I never thought I would do in this situation, but it has been a relief and it has set me free inside. I got a real feel-good factor and the highs I felt on the farm replaced the highs of the drugs. I have finished at the farm now and have left with a different attitude. I have a CV and some qualifications and have discovered I am quite good in the kitchen. I am much more motivated and positive about the future now and would really like to go to college to do construction or cooking and maybe some voluntary work to keep me busy".
By helping people achieve their full potential and become a productive member of their community, the hope is that this positive impact of the work done by Willowdene Farm will not only be felt by their clients, but will also be felt by their families, their communities and by society as a whole. Willowdene Farm hopes to reach further than any one individual to bring about lasting social change.
Willowdene Farm is planning to expand the support they offer to female offenders, hoping to work with them in both a residential and day care capacity.
“This place can and will change you. This has got to be the best place I have ever come." – Mark, Willowdene Farm resident