Young People in Cotteridge Park
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By Emma Woolf MBE, Vice Chair
The Friends of Cotteridge Park was set up in 1997 in response to a threat to “decommission” the park. The aim of the group is to care for and develop the park as a resource for the whole of the community.
Young people are the future of our community; working with them to find ways to make the park their own is key to the work of the Friends of Cotteridge Park.
Volunteering in The Shed and in the Park
After 10 years of planning, The Shed, our new community building opened its doors in August 2020, despite all the obstacles created by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Shed Volunteers
To date, more than 70 people have signed up to join the volunteer team and more are continuing to join. Almost all of these people are new volunteers who have not previously volunteered in the park.
We are able to welcome independent volunteers from 14 years old – younger if they come with an adult. The volunteer team includes all ages – some in to their 80s - a mix that represents our community.
We are really pleased to see how many young volunteers are helping to run The Shed; adding to their skills and confidence.
"I’ve been volunteering at Cotteridge Park for a few years. Starting with gardening and now at The Shed. It’s a great way to meet new people. It helps me feel like I am both part of the community and contributing to it (it was also a good reason for me to get up on a Sunday morning)” Niamh
"I've found it an amazing opportunity to learn how to be a Barista and get retail experience, whilst serving the community and benefiting the park. It’s a perfect experience of giving and getting from the FoCP, and it’s been incredibly rewarding both for me and for every other volunteer I've served a shift with." Joseph
Conservation and Gardening Volunteers
Our Sunday morning gardening session provides opportunities for students to complete the volunteering module of the Duke of Edinburgh awards. Many of the young people who have joined the sessions stay on after they have completed their awards – so they must be having fun. Some even come back after they’ve left school.
During the pandemic they also joined the midweek sessions when schools were closed.
Outside of the pandemic we work with the local secondary school to provide volunteering experience days with Year 9 students as part of the curriculum.
Detached youth workers
A key age group that needs support is the one transitioning from primary to secondary school.
At Years 5/6/7 many young people get their first experience of going to the park by themselves.
If they’ve been brought to the park when younger they would usually have gone to the swings – which becomes synonymous with the park. Once they outgrow the swings many of them don’t know what to do with space.
One of the impacts of the lockdowns – especially during the school closures - was that more young people were in the park for longer periods. We were concerned that these young people, particularly those in that transition phase, needed support to use the park safely and manged to raise funding for detached youth workers.
Initial funding was for 10 weeks, but we were then able to reallocate funding for projects that could not go ahead because of the pandemic to provide additional sessions.
The youth workers have added a great service to the community, and we are now looking for additional funding to enable this work to continue. During the first phase of the project 300+ interactions with young people were recorded.
For parents, carers and the young people themselves there was reassurance in knowing that young people could use the park safely, with support when needed.
We hope to learn from the experience in Cotteridge Park and develop the service into a pilot for other open spaces across the city (if funding bids are successful).
We have worked for many years with local primary schools to offer forest school courses as part of the school day and during the school holidays for families and young people.
The summer holiday sessions are often combined with arts and science projects. These will be returning in Summer 2021.
With the pandemic our Pre-Schoolers Forest School changed into a DIY Forest School. Working with a local project, based in Cotteridge Park – Roam – we provide weekly leaflets and downloads to enable carers and young children to meet in small groups for self-led DIY forest school activities.
ROAM - Childhoods immersed in nature - Freedom from ‘supervision’
ROAM’s mission is to facilitate children’s free play in nature with minimal supervision, to support others to do so, and to campaign for every child’s right to independent play.
ROAM run a range of sessions for children up to the age of 12, with differing levels of supervision. We are developing new models all the time to broaden inclusion to our sessions.
ROAM - http://www.roam.org.uk/
Parks and open spaces are where children and young people have always been free to grow and develop, it’s a great place to learn to manage risk and to find your own way.
As a friends group/open spaces volunteer group our task is to ensure that children and young people get the opportunity to engage in the management and development of their space to meet their current and future needs.
Finding new and innovative ways to do that is good for all of us.
instagram and twitter - @cotteridgepark
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