Ellesmere Port-based Bridge Community Farms has extended its provision of work experience to teenagers in the area with the help of funding from a number of organisations.

The social enterprise, a working farm which first began operating in 2015, received £17,000 in funding which has allowed them to employ Deputy Wellness Manager, Charlie Cooke. Charlie is qualified in health and social care and his appointment enables Bridge Community Farms to develop the wellness side of the organisation and increase the number of clients with mental health issues and children with behavioural problems.

The project was made possible thanks to grants from six charitable funds including support from Conviviality Retail, Westminster Foundation and Quality Freight.

The three funds along with others are administered by Cheshire Community Foundation, which aims to match charitable donors with the causes that matter most in Cheshire and Warrington.

Bridge Community Farms provides work opportunities and experience for vulnerable, hard to reach young people who have mental health and learning difficulties who are not in education or employment or struggling in the classroom.

The young people are taught valuable skills enabling them to farm the land, donate food parcels to those living in poverty and sell the produce to help the organisation become sustainable.

In its first year of operation, the enterprise worked with 65 client volunteers with some degree of mental health and learning difficulties. Of these, five now have permanent jobs elsewhere.

Prior to the application for funding, the “Work experience for teenagers” programme was successfully piloted in conjunction with Whitby High School, to provide alternative learning for children with severe behavioural problems.

Francis Ball, who set up Bridge Community Farms, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have received this funding for our “Work experience for teenagers” programme.

“The funds will make a huge difference to the lives of those in our community. We are building the infrastructure on the farm to enable us to work with 12 students per day, four days per week, and have 12 appropriately skilled volunteers wanting to mentor these students.

“With additional wet weather growing facilities (two more 90ft poly tunnels) and a new Deputy Wellness Manager, we can help these students and involve their families, which will lead to significant improvements in school and in turn lead to less antisocial behaviour and far better employment prospects.”

Wendy Doherty, People Director for Conviviality Retail, said: “We are really pleased to have been able to help such a deserving social enterprise as Bridge Community Farms.

“We engaged our staff in the process by asking them to vote for their favourite charity from a shortlist chosen by our staff engagement team.

“It’s a fantastic way for us to involve our staff and convey a positive message to the whole team.”

Zoe Sheppard, CEO of Cheshire Community Foundation said: “This is a superb example of a charitable fund making a very real difference to those in need in Ellesmere Port.

“In the case of Conviviality Retail, this initiative has provided a brilliant opportunity to engage with staff, just as it can for other businesses.

“We are extremely grateful for the support provided by Conviviality Retail, Westminster Foundation, Quality Freight and our other generous donors to Bridge Community Farms, for this vital community project which will make such a difference to the lives of those taking part.”

For more information about Bridge Community Farms please email the Farm and Wellness Manager, Clair Johnson, on bcf.farmmanager@gmail.com or call her on 07446 699995.

Links to coverage

Ellesmere Port Pioneer