When a young person falls out of mainstream education, your first thoughts on how to get them back on track probably don’t involve gardening gloves, plant seeds and a trowel.
Roots and Shoots, an educational charity based in Kennington, London, think outside the box. They provide vocational training in horticulture, alongside traditional subjects, as a way of re-engaging students with learning difficulties who have struggled in mainstream school.
Last Thursday, we had the privilege of attending the opening ceremony for Roots and Shoots’ new environmental learning centre for young people. The centre, named 'Natural Roots', was funded by LandAid through a grant of £150,000 and will increase the charity’s capacity for helping people by 60%.
As we arrived at Roots and Shoots’ premises, we found them as beautiful as you’d expect from a charity that specialises in horticulture. Tucked away among London’s bustling streets, the grounds provided an oasis of greenery, calm and – in the current heatwave – much-needed shade.
The opening ceremony gave us the opportunity to meet the many people from different industries involved in the project: the Roots and Shoots staff and trustees, the builders, the architects and representatives from the property sector, all of whom had helped make the new learning centre possible. As Ian Parker, the Chair of Trustees at Roots and Shoots, remarked, “the most important thing with a project such as this is having a team that are all committed to Roots and Shoots’ values”.
Liz Peace CBE, Chairman of LandAid, had the honour of officially opening the new centre. As she stepped up to cut the ribbon, she reflected on the significance of getting disadvantaged young people involved in horticulture, saying how important it is to “connect them with growing”. Getting young people who have struggled in school engaged in the creative and business sides of growing plants has helped them grow in confidence at the same time.
In an increasingly competitive job market, this boost to young people's confidence is vital in giving them a more positive outlook for the future. Horticultural training has broadened the horizon for vulnerable young people seeking employment, and we at LandAid are delighted to have played a part.