Specialising in the restoration, preservation and sustainability of the rivers and streams in and around Yeovil, the Yeovil Rivers Community Trust (YRCT) applied for a Discovery Community Grant to enable more people with learning disabilities and/or autism to get involved with their vital work.
We spoke with Project and Engagement Officer Karis Hockey who explained how the grant has enabled them to improve what they can offer adults with learning disabilities:
The money has meant we have been able to extend what we offer and grow it into a full programme. Adults with learning disabilities and autistic people can attend regular group sessions to enable them to focus on their interests and grow their skills. Activities include looking at different surveying methods, which can include zooplankton surveys, pond dipping and plant surveys using quadrants.
The grant has allowed us to reach more people and get them involved with our work. It has given us the ability to grow as an organisation and increase our capacity. We have been able to join up with other learning disability groups in Yeovil and Somerset.
The Yeovil Rivers Community Trust has a programme of activities and learning opportunities for local people to connect with nature. These activities are taking place at multiple sites in and around Yeovil, including Sutton Bingham Reservoir, in partnership with Wessex Water.
Wildlife walks, Surveys, Habitat creation and Litter picks.
Karis says that people with learning disabilities and/or autistic people who join the programme can gain so much, from both the practical skills that they learn to socialising with others. Additionally, being outside in nature is so good for people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Some people have gone on to get their brushcutter/trimmer licences and many have found scythe cutting in particular very rewarding.
Karis explains that people who have undertaken the specific training use a scythe to cut in big circular motions on the grass and it can have a very calming effect. Also, since using a scythe is silent and isn’t like some of the noisy saws or trimmers those who have noise sensitivities can get involved.
The fund has meant that they are able to go and visit more sites and clear areas, which has had a positive effect on the local community. Additionally, with the use of scythes, there is no noisy equipment to disrupt the peace and quiet of those who live nearby.
For the YRCT it is clear that the grant has really had an impact in benefitting autistic adults and/or those with learning disabilities. We asked Karis what she would say her experience of applying for a Discovery Community Fund was like and what she would say to others who may be thinking about this:
I would definitely recommend it. We are quite a young organisation and perhaps we hadn’t got all the elements in place that were needed but were supported to complete these through the fund. It was really nurturing, which perhaps is the benefit of a smaller more local fund. We found with larger trusts you just don’t get the same level of support, particularly if you haven’t quite got all your ducks in a row and you just get lost, but we found everyone to be incredibly helpful in guiding us through the process. It was really fantastic!
As for the future Karis is hoping they can extend the programme and get more people who could benefit involved and with her boundless energy and enthusiasm we are sure this won’t prove an issue. They may even look for an additional Discovery Community Grant to further their good work in blue spaces.
Through the work YCRT is doing Karis hopes that they can challenge some perceptions about what people with learning disabilities and/or autistic people can achieve. She cites one competition when a judge was clearly amazed about what one group had accomplished and couldn’t comprehend how this was possible.
What some people don’t understand is that with the right support, most people can do most things; new skills can be learned and the benefits for both individuals and communities can be immense.