The National Trust has been awarded almost £1m by the Big Lottery Fund to give young people the skills and opportunities to help care for local natural places across five cities in England and Wales.
The Green Academies Project 2 (GAP2) is one of over thirty projects that will benefit from the Big Lottery Fund’s £33m Our Bright Future fund.
Based at six National Trust properties and involving a wide range of local partners, GAP2 will work with young people aged 11 to 24 in Birmingham, south London, Greater Manchester, Newcastle and Wrexham. The project will be delivered with support from UpRising, a youth leadership development organisation.
The funding will allow us to further develop a volunteering model that has already proven itself in Birmingham.
Since 2009 the National Trust has offered training and volunteering opportunities to young people aged 11 to 19 in south Birmingham, working closely in partnership with Birmingham City Council’s Parks and Nature Conservation department and Birmingham Youth Services,
A dedicated training programme has given young people aged 16-19 who are not in employment, education or training the chance to gain NVQ-level equivalent experience in nature conservation management.
Young people on the programme have given more than 20,000 hours volunteering at National Trust properties and local green spaces in Birmingham, helping to plant four new orchards and laying over 350 metres of hedgerow.
Former Green Academies Project volunteers have gone on to enjoy careers in horticulture and nature conservation.
Father of two Allen Downing started volunteering with the Green Academies Project (GAP) in 2012.
“I’d gotten into a rut trying to get work”, he says. “But it wasn’t work I was really interested in. GAP has given me the chance to find out what I do enjoy doing.”
Since graduating from the Green Academies Project Allen has found work with the landscaping team at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.
“I feel like I’ve moved forward as a person. I’m more confident speaking to people. I’m actually being paid to do what I enjoy.”
A movement for change
Dee Whittle, National Trust Urban Green Space Project Manager in Birmingham and leader for GAP2 in the city, welcomes the opportunity to extend the Green Academies project to other cities.
Young people can be among the most marginalised groups in our society. With the help of Our Bright Future and our local partners, we have the chance to support more people in England and Wales to shape their local and natural environment.
GAP2 will be based at six National Trust properties in England and Wales:
- Birmingham: Clent Hills and Birmingham City (Back to Backs)
- South London: Morden Hall Park
- Greater Manchester: Dunham Massey and Quarry Bank
- Newcastle: Gibside
- Wrexham: Erddig
The six properties will be working with local partners in the education, youth and conservation sectors to develop volunteering programmes for young people, opportunities for young people to achieve informal or formal conservation qualifications and activities to engage the wider community with local green spaces.
GAP2 is part of the National Trust’s wider efforts to support people to look after the green spaces where they live. Over the coming decade we will be testing ways to connect people to their local green spaces and helping people to play a part in caring for these special places.