OUR STORIES

Our unique methods really work. We are amazed daily by the positive impact our inspiring coaches, intuitive animals and invigorating outdoor environments and activities have on our learners’ lives. But don’t just let us be the judge. Let our learners explain how they have begun to rewrite their life stories at The Seeds of Change.

1 Underlining County Lines

#CountyLines #exploitation #grooming

County Lines and Child Exploitation through criminal activity are hot topics right now. News broadcasters are regularly talking about how police forces nationwide are working to combat these issues, how they are a wide-spread problem, and are affecting provincial areas as well as large metropolitan zones. But do the general public, parents, and others in charge of children, really understand what it all means?

Gangs are deliberately targeting children in our communities – those who are homeless, living in care homes or trapped. These children are unsafe, unloved, or unable to cope, and the gangs take advantage of this. Other children at risk are those who are unsure of their sexual identity, those who socially lack confidence or are deemed ‘loners’.

Gangs groom, threaten or trick children into trafficking their drugs for them. They might threaten a young person physically, or they might threaten the young person’s family members. The gangs might also offer something in return for the young person’s cooperation – it could be money, food, alcohol, drugs, clothes and jewellery, or improved status – but the giving of these gifts will usually be manipulated so that the child feels they are in debt to their exploiter.  Invariably they become trapped in county lines, and feel as if they have no choice but to continue doing what the gangs want.

The Children’s Commissioner believes that there are at least 46,000 children in England who are involved in gang activity. It is estimated that around 4,000 teenagers in London alone are being exploited through child criminal exploitation, or 'county lines'. These gangs are now active in our towns, communities and schools.

Tragically the young people exploited through county lines can often be seen by professionals as criminals. In our experience, we know that these young people truly are victims of manipulation and exploitation with deep-rooted issues.

ZOE’S* STORY

Zoe has been embedded in the care system for most of her life after the breakdown of the relationship with her birth family.

*Name altered for anonymity

ZOE’S* STORY

Foster placements had deteriorated due to her erratic behaviour and constant need to abscond, which ultimately resulted in her being placed in children’s homes and secure units within them to prevent her from running away.

“I ran away over 200 times”, revealed Zoe. “I just did not feel safe in my care home and I felt no real sense of belonging to anyone”.

This behaviour continued until her ‘boyfriend’ came on the scene. He was someone who showed her some ‘love and care’. “He showered attention on me, brought me gifts, took me away to hotels and gave me the special treatment”, she disclosed.

Her 'boyfriend' was in care in London and a county lines drug runner who made frequent trips to the Bedford area. “I believed that he was in love with me, but there were times where his behaviour towards me would make me angry and upset”, she added. “He called me his ‘best girl’, but he would also say that to other girls too. Because I had low self-confidence, I kept on going back to him”.

Zoe claims that she was never asked to look after drugs for him, or sell them for him.

Zoe was referred to The Seeds of Change following her refusal to attend any formal education setting. Initially her demeanour and attitude were closed and she found eye contact difficult. She was also very concerned with her appearance and wanting to look good.

As her one-to-one sessions progressed, she relaxed and cared less about her appearance. “The horse made me feel more comfortable in myself, I know that it didn’t care what I looked like and wouldn’t judge me on my past,” she added. “It just wants my love and time.”

Her ability to build and develop healthy and positive relationships with others was growing, and she often said to her coach that she felt listened to, valued, and worthy. “The horse calms me down, makes me feel more chilled, and helps me to focus my mind on what is important”, Zoe said. She continued, “It gives me time away from reality, and helps me to realise that there is more I could be doing with my life”.

Zoe has continued to progress at The Seeds of Change and is completing a City and Guilds Employability qualification. She has also started to attend another alternative provision which is going well. Her personal life has also improved; she is now in a stable foster home and trying to steer clear of disruptive and manipulative influences in her life.

If you would like to find out more about these issues, please consider attending our upcoming event on County Lines and Child Exploitation. To view more information and to book your place, please follow this link

2 Working with Care Farms

#City&Guilds #employability #CareFarms

Our courses, whether therapeutic or academic, focus on using outdoor environments to stimulate personal awareness, confidence and growth. We frequently use horses to assist this process, but just being outside in the fresh air, away from places of insecurity, gives our learners the freedom to grow, learn and breath.

We handwrite all our courses with flexibility in mind, so they are adjustable to a learner’s needs and transferable into any outdoor, rural setting.

Consequently, we have had great success introducing our City & Guilds courses into Care Farms across the UK, whose facilities and audiences have a slightly different focus to our own, but whose learning environments share many parallels.

FarmAbilty, one such Care Farm based in Oxford, has partnered with us to deliver our City and Guilds Level 2 Certificate in Employability course to its learners, leading to a 100% pass rate.

“Our learners did an ASDAN qualification before, but City & Guilds is much better as it’s meaty and meaningful”, says Liv at FarmAbilty.

Ultimately, this course is gearing learners up for the next phase in their life, outside the realms of support or education. It is about enabling learners to pick up practical skills which will give them the confidence to enter the world of work, whether it be voluntary or paid, and to become more independent.  “It’s a qualification that is well recognised which is good for learner’s pride and their desire to engage and achieve,” adds Liv.

FarmAbility offers outdoor, farm-based programmes of animal husbandry, horticulture and seasonal tasks for adults with autism and learning disabilities. It was important that the course was adaptable to meet the specific needs of FarmAbility’s learners.  “Amy from The Seeds of Change has worked with us to ensure that the units meet our learners’ needs.  The flexibility and support has been really positive and the team has been really brilliant, helpful and open”, says Liv.

She continues, “The course has also helped our reputation. We have been able to tell others that we are offering a City & Guilds course which gives us more credibility as a Centre and has raised our profile with visitors and supporters. It has also given our sessions more structure and focus which benefits everyone.”

LUKE’S STORY

Luke successfully completed the new City & Guilds course at FarmAbility with 100% attendance. As well as providing him with a credible qualification, the course has helped him to focus his thoughts on his future and career choices. Additionally, it has increased his awareness and confidence, and he is now able to openly discuss his positive skills and traits, a really significant change for him. What’s more, the course has inspired him to take on an online Maths and English course which he hopes will be a stepping stone towards a career in gaming design; this is the first time he has engaged in formal education since he was 11!

The course has been very successful with 100% of FarmAbility’s learners completing the qualification and achieving an Entry Level 2 Certificate in Employability Skills.

 

3 Overcoming bullying

#bullying #anxiety #disengagement

Unfortunately we see cases of severe bullying and its lasting and devastating effects daily. Whether it is emotional or physical abuse; in school, at home, on the streets or in the 21st Century’s cyberworld; it is repeated behaviour that is intended to cause hurt and make the victim’s life a misery.

In many of our cases, it is one of the root causes of anxiety and disengagement from education among our learners.

SARAH’S* STORY

Sarah* one of our year 11 learners has endured years of severe bullying at several schools and a difficult home life – her parents have separated, her relationship with her parents is fractious and she now cares for her father. As a result she suffers from extreme anxiety and her self-esteem and confidence are very low.

However, since attending The Seeds of Change, and working with our coaches and horses on a one-to-one basis, she has started to develop coping strategies to deal with her anxieties which are starting to make her life easier, particularly in social or learning situations.

“I enjoy coming to The Seeds of Change because it’s fun and I have someone I can talk to and feel safe”, says Sarah.

*Name altered for anonymity

SARAH’S* STORY

She continues, “Working with the horses is fun because the work that we do with them helps me to understand it would be good for me to change how I approach things sometimes. This will help me develop friendships which is important to me because I’ve had a hard time at school in the past.”

Sarah is now able to attend small group sessions at another learning establishment to further her education which is a huge step forward for her.

Sarah adds, “Before, when I was anxious during my group sessions and I was asked a difficult or personal question I would have probably left and not gone back. Now I use the coping strategies that I have developed at The Seeds of Change, I stay calm and I reassure myself, and I manage to stay. It feels good knowing that I can do that”.

Sarah has noticed a big change at home as well: “Before I started at The Seeds of Change the relationship with my Mum wasn’t very good and it was hard to talk to her about things. It’s changed because I’m learning to communicate in a different way with her. If I change how I say things or when I say them it results in a different outcome. It’s calmer now and we can talk and have fun.”

Sarah is positive about her future and she is now contemplating a career in social work, where she can use her experiences to help others going through difficult times at home and school.
For more information about the work we do with sufferers of Anxiety, bullying and other related issues, please get in touch.

4 Giving Selective Mutism a voice

#selectivemutism #anxiety #PTS

Sadly, Selective Mutism is a condition which is becoming increasingly evident in our schools. According to National Health England's latest figures this condition affects more than 1 in 140 children and is closely linked to Anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress.

If left undetected or untreated, the condition can result in more serious social anxiety, isolation and low self-esteem. 

Early signs that may be displayed in school can include low levels of learner engagement or a reluctance to participle in class may would draw attention to them. Urinary infections can be as a result of not wanting to ask to go to the toilet and a reluctance to eat or drink anything during the which may lead to having to ask to leave the classroom.

Early diagnosis can increase the  chances of improvement but at The Seeds of Change many young people who have been diagnosed often are not referred to us until many other interventions have been tried and failed.

The approach that we use at The Seeds of Change offers the unique interaction with a horse, which not only creates a more relaxing and emotionally safe environment, but can also encourage a young person to use their voice when communicating with the horse in this less threatening environment.

Using the horse in a stimulus fading approach can enable the young person to begin to use speech and language when interacting with the horse, whilst others are around. This communication with the horse enables positive outcomes and exchange, builds a bond and trust with the horse, which then develops confidence and increases self-esteem for the learner - thus reducing anxiety around speaking.

Over time, the communication with the horse and through the horse to the coach becomes a natural progression in a non-threatening and natural way. Using the horse as a metaphor can result in very positive progress being made with speech both in and outside the session.

View Becca’s story to find out how The Seeds of Change can help people affected by Selective Mutism.

5 Self-harming: finding an alternative release

#self-harm #stress #self-esteem

Fear, release, stress, release, anger, release, pain, release...
Just some of the reasons our young people have identified as being the trigger for their self-harm. In recent years we have seen an increase in young people self-harming: classically we think about cutting, injuring and scarring oneself, but self-harm can also take the form of trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling) overdoses and engaging in high risk behaviours.

Through our equine facilitated learning approach we support young people to begin to identify the driving force behind their desire to self-harm and, through the formation of a supportive, trusting partnership with their horse, we can begin to explore healthier alternative coping strategies.

TOM’S* STORY

Tom was referred to The Seeds of Change having experienced several education placement breakdowns. His challenging behaviour and violent outbursts had led to him becoming isolated and falling behind. He quickly formed a close bond with one of The Seeds of Change horses, James, soon experiencing for himself the non-judgemental space that horses provide for us.

His coach, Charlie, stated: “Our sessions initially focussed on developing confidence and self-esteem, building effective communication skills and, crucially, understanding and correctly labelling the range of emotions that we feel.”

TOM’S* STORY

When we are able to accurately recognise and experience a range of emotions we become able to act upon them from a place of knowledge and calm; a place that allows us to consider our responses rather than diving in with a little thought about reaction. A reaction that often leads to difficult consequences. Charlie continued, “Through his work with James, Tom was able to observe the impact of his choices of behaviour on others and also began to link this back to the effect it had on himself.”

She added, “It was during this time that Tom disclosed to me his self-harming, cutting his arms, and on occasion his legs, in a desperate attempt to feel in control or to ‘punish himself’ when things had gone wrong.” Tom was worried that this disclosure would change the judgement of those around him, thinking him either weak or an attention seeker. “We were able to explore how self-harming had become a ‘habit’, a maladaptive coping strategy when faced with a difficult situation, thought or feeling”, said Charlie.

Working with James enabled Tom to begin to identify the triggers for his self-harm, the thoughts and feelings that accompanied these triggers and ultimately the behaviours that came about as a result. He learnt that horses, just like us, engage in ‘habits’ as a way of coping with challenging situations; these habits can be changed with gentle support and understanding and ultimately offering alternative ways of approaching the situation.

If you would like to find out more about our approach, please get in touch.