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Growing Lives to recruit mentors and head into the countryside

Our Growing Lives project – which helps homeless people rebuild their lives by teaching them skills for the workplace – is planning to introduce a mentoring scheme and head into the countryside to get closer to nature.

We will appoint mentors as part of a new drive to help newcomers to settle in from their first day at our base in Grenville Drive, Cotmanhay.

Growing Lives runs a series of activities designed to help people who have found themselves homeless and are working hard to put their difficult times and life challenges, such as mental health issues, alcohol and substance addictions and domestic abuse, behind them.

They include crafts, woodworking, gardening and cooking, all of which give opportunities to participants that help them to learn new skills, get a sense of achievement and meet new people.

Growing Lives works with around 50 people each year but had to close its doors for a few months during the pandemic last year. It is open again now, but not able to help as many people due to social distancing requirements.

We have successfully applied to Derbyshire County Council for funding for the next two years so that we can continue our work and extend our provision to cover the mentoring scheme, which will see current participants given training as part of a buddy system. This will be a way to help people who are new to Growing Lives while adding to their own skillset at the same time.

We will also set up a new partnership with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, with participants travelling out to locations such as Erewash Canal as part of a 12-week course where they will learn bushcraft, identify birds and trees and cook on open fires.

Kim Miles, support services and project lead for Growing Lives, said:

We’re delighted to have received the funding and we’re really excited about the prospect of our mentoring scheme and working with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

We’re always looking for ways in which we can extend our provision and these new schemes will give Growing Lives more of a sustainable impact on the people we work with by giving them more skills to prepare them for the world of work.

Working as buddies is a wonderful way for people to raise their own esteem and take on a different role, while the work with the Trust will widen their knowledge of the world and see them pick up new skills that they would not otherwise have had access to.

Among those helped by Growing Lives over the past year is Adam, who had very minimal contact with people prior to his involvement, with his only previous social interaction taking place at the pub.

As someone who had alcohol issues this was unhelpful, but lockdown reduced Adam to drinking at home alone, including regular binge drinking sessions during which he would spend the whole day in bed.
Since joining Growing Lives he has built up his confidence by spending one day a week in the craft room and is now more social. He is planning to build his own bike in the bike workshop and ride it along the canal.

He has also cut down on his drinking and has been going outside to walk locally.

Jackie Carpenter, assistant director of Derventio Housing Trust, said:

Stories like Adam’s are a reminder of how Growing Lives is a very important part of our work at the Trust and it’s vital that it continues to develop the services that it provides to its participants.

It was hugely missed when it was closed during the lockdown and so this new funding will ensure that we can continue to help all participants like Adam to recover from the isolation and loneliness that they suffered during the pandemic and work towards creating a better life for themselves in the future.