Epping has the energy of youth
PUBLISHED: 15:41 15 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:37 20 February 2013
From clearing brambles to laying footpaths, a new initiative in Epping is encouraging young people to volunteer for a day to improve life in their community. Nicky Adams explains.
HENRY VIII might even have cracked a smile to see a team of teenagers, armed with thick gloves and garden implements, wage war on thick brambles and hawthorn in an area of Epping Forest recently. The bushes had grown out of control and were obscuring the view from Epping Forests historic Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge, the kings favourite deer hunting
Its a fun and active day out in a supportive environment, working alongside friends
The young people were from King Harold School in Waltham Abbey and St Johns School in Epping, and had been drafted in as part of a new Youth Volunteer Programme being run by Epping Forest District Councils Community Development Team.
The idea is to encourage local secondary school students to volunteer for a day to help improve life for everyone in the community, says Diane Butler, Epping Forest District Councils young persons officer, who runs the scheme.
For the young people involved, its a fun and active day out in a supportive environment, alongside friends, adds Diane. At the end they all say theyve thoroughly enjoyed the experience and at the same time theyve gained new skills and a real sense of achievement. The majority of young people involved have expressed an interest in volunteering again in the future.
Clearly a win-win situation all round and one which is sure to have a very positive impact on Epping Forest District. The council has teamed up with a variety of local organisations to provide all sorts of volunteering opportunities for young people aged 11 to 17. As well as the thickets of the forest, other areas that have already had the enthusiastic teen treatment have included Linders Field Local Nature Reserve in Buckhurst Hill, where students from Braeside School worked with the councils Countrycare staff to install a drainage pipe and to repair and improve a footpath and bridge. This included laying non-slip material and painting the woodwork, so not an easy day out.
The young people involved all understood the concept of volunteering and how it can help the community and help them to be better citizens, said Christine Eyles at Voluntary Action Epping. I was amazed at their response they worked so hard and were genuinely proud of what they had achieved. They also spoke about their experience positively and appreciated the fact that volunteering can benefit young people in many ways, such as a reference and evidence of community engagement when writing their personal statements.
The council are arranging further opportunities for young people to volunteer in their local community, to ensure that this interest is captured and to help young people to find opportunities so they can continue volunteering.
Certainly Epping is a community that has plenty worth taking care of. The forest itself covers 2,500 hectares and needs a whole army of wardens and another of volunteers to maintain and nurture it. Fortunately, the Friends of Epping Forest have noticed an increase in the number of local people volunteering their time and energy to help preserve this ancient woodland for generations to come. We always need more Friends, says Judy Adams, the Friends chairman, and young members are very welcome. Our guiding principles are to ensure there is a forest for people to enjoy into the future!
Young people gain new skills and a real sense of achievement
The Friends run numerous activities throughout the year, including guided walks, publications and the annual Centenary Walk, which is particularly popular with young people who walk the length of the forest.
Our older members tell us of how much they love the forest now, even those who might have moved away, says Judy, because of their earlier experiences, activities and associations with Epping Forest.
Its obviously enormously important to give young people the opportunity to take an active role in their community, adds Diane, and to feel that they truly belong to it, now and in the future.
Find out more
Friends of Epping Forest
For more information, visit www.friendsofeppingforest.org.uk or call 020 8529 3077. Single life membership costs 50, while joint or family life membership is 80.
A single annual membership is 8 and joint or family annual membership is 12.
Epping Forest District Councils Youth Volunteer Programme
For further information, contact Diane Butler, the young persons officer, on 01992 564365. For general volunteering information, contact Christine Eyles at Voluntary Action Epping Forest on 01992 564616