Posted: 31.07.20 at 12:00 by Tim Lethaby
A forest school on the edge of Shepton Mallet has received a grant of £2,800 from the Somerset Coronavirus Appeal.
Run by the Somerset Community Foundation (SCF), which is based at the Bath and West Showground near Shepton Mallet, the appeal aims to support community groups and organisation through the coronavirus crisis.
Holly and Hawthorn Forest School is a community group based on the outskirts of Shepton Mallet which aims to provide children with opportunities to build confidence, new skills, and independence through positive outdoor activities.
Kaye Watts from the group said how the £2,800 grant from the Somerset Coronavirus Appeal is helping to restart sessions after the coronavirus outbreak and providing free access for children from low-income households.
“It’s been a difficult few months as we lost about half of our income because of the outbreak," she said.
"I was able to keep working in some schools, but everything else was wiped out. It was tough to try and start again because I needed to make sure we could cover our costs and avoid running at a loss.
"Without funding from Somerset Community Foundation, we wouldn't have been able to do it.
"Our sessions are based on the Forest School ethos, which means that children choose what they want to do from lots of different activities, and we give them the support and tools they need.
"If they want to hunt bugs, we give them a magnifying glass and an identification sheet, or if they want to build dens, we show them different kinds of knots.
"We want to help them build resilience and independence so they can learn how to support themselves as they explore.
"I’ve always been passionate about removing financial barriers for children whose families can’t afford activities like these.
"As soon as I set up Holly and Hawthorn Forest School I secured funding from grants and donations so that around a third of our places are free for children from low-income families.
"Many of the children who come to us are living in flats without gardens or little outside space. After months of being off school and at home, there have been a lot of restrictions on the children and it’s been really hard for parents, too.
"Coming to our woodland sessions gives children a safe place and freedom to explore the outdoors and get used to socialising with other children again, which is great for their mental health.
"Lots of our parents also really need downtime themselves. Their child coming here means they have a few hours where they know their child is safe and it gives them some respite.
"If they have other children, like a younger sibling, it also means they can have some quality time with them where they have their undivided attention. It’s great to be able to offer that support to the whole family.”
The news of the forest school's grant comes as the Somerset Community Foundation announced that its coronavirus appeal has raised £1 million since it was launched in late March.
The landmark has been hit thanks to generous contributions made to the Somerset Coronavirus Appeal by local individuals, charitable trusts and businesses, as well as funding from the national appeal, run by the National Emergencies Trust.
Donations to the appeal are providing grants of up to £10,000 to groups delivering frontline support to help local communities recover from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and reduce disadvantage.
Grants of more than £500,000 have already been awarded to more than 180 local good causes across the county, including food deliveries for older people, online counselling, activity packs for disadvantaged children and support for struggling families.
During the first "emergency" phase of the appeal, the money raised was awarded to local charities and community organisations supporting those in most urgent need during the early days of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
Justin Sargent, chief executive at SCF, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have reached this significant milestone and have been humbled by the generosity of local people, businesses, and charitable trusts who have really united behind our communities here in Somerset.
“I am hearing regularly from charities on the frontline that the demand for their support continues to be huge at a time when many of them have lost fundraising income.
"Many also believe that they will see even greater demand in the months ahead as the long-term impacts of the outbreak start to have an effect.
"We’ve set ourselves an ambitious goal of raising £1.5 million for Somerset so we can make a further £1 million of grants to see our communities through the tough times ahead.”
Any group wishing to apply for funding from the Somerset Coronavirus Appeal can visit the SCF website where they can find guidance on how to make an application: www.somersetcf.org.uk/coronavirus.