As well as long term volunteers, Jamie’s Farm recruit week long residential volunteers to help support the staff and be an extra pair of hands during the week. The role is varied and includes everything and anything, whether that be jumping up to do the washing up after the big group meals, motivating students in their work around the farm or taking photos to help document the week. After reading the volunteer specification and submitting my application, I was really happy to be accepted and assigned to volunteer for a week mid-June.
So, after the relevant DBS checks, off I went to Wiltshire wondering what the week had in store. I arrived at a very peaceful farm courtyard and after poking my head around a few doors, one was flung open and I was warmly waved into the team briefing, ahead of the school’s arrival. I was introduced to the team and Director of Programmes Jake talked me through my volunteering induction. Feeling immediately welcome, I had the chance to get to know some more staff over the team lunch in the main farm house before I was recruited by Tish (resident horse expert) to herd some escapee horses back into the right paddock before welcoming the minibus full of students to the farm.
Those first two hours were an excellent precursor and indication to what the next five days would be like – full of collaboration, team work, careful thought about how to support the young people to be at their best, running around fields, working with animals and getting stuck in to help the whole process go as smoothly as possible. The main difference being that the 5 days which followed were filled with 10 fantastic young people, who bought with them such enthusiasm and openness to the experiences on offer.
The week I spent volunteering at Jamie’s Farm is hard to summarise in a short blog. The days started early, supporting the young Farmers with the ‘feeding rounds’ which included pig pen cleaning and egg collecting. Then it would be back to the farmhouse for a cooked breakfast (everything, down the bread is homemade, led by resident chef Rob and mostly cooked by the students). The day’s activities were wide ranging and included art, carpentry, log chopping, horse whispering and gardening. Each day was punctuated (after tea and a homemade bake) with a long group walk, often throwing an American football around as we went, after which the group would come to sit and share a meal, reflecting positively on the events of the day.
During my week at Jamie’s Farm, I leant many practical things such why pig pellets come in various sizes and how to identify a male duck. I saw a sow and her 17 piglets at a few hours old, I held a chicken, visited a sheep farm and helped to weigh lambs. I rode on the back of a trailer, sung around a campfire and learnt how to make a cover for a vegetable patch using willow. I did and learned all of these things with the students, alongside them, often having the opportunity to see things through their eyes. But what I witnessed and was able to be part of most was the power of positive reinforcement.
Away from computers, phones, fashion, familiar friends, London and school the students, from a cross section of year groups, grew into one of the three words in the Jamie’s Farm motto – family. It could be seen and could be felt, even some of the young people acknowledged this new bond. The week was full of laughter as well as learning but finished with tears as students and staff reflected on the personal achievements they had made that week and how these achievements and positive changes could be carried forward and transferred back into their personal and educational lives in London.
As a volunteer for the week, I found that Jamie’s Farm is a special place. It is run efficiently and smoothly but never feels forced. It feels natural and constantly responds the students’ needs at that time. This is reinforced only by the students’ own happy tears at the end of the week, where I heard more than one say it had been the best week of their life.
Written by Livi Shaw, Volunteer, July 2016
If you think you might be interested in volunteering at Jamie’s Farm do get in touch with Laura Mathews firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and an application form.