Scottish People Build a Sensory Garden for Children with Autism
A group of young people have been recognised as champions of their community for building a sensory garden for children with autism at a local primary school.
"We feel so proud to have won this award," said Caitlin Connor, 22, one of 30 members of Ayrshire Team 150 that were the overall winners of the Community Impact Award in the Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx and Homesense Awards.
They beat six other regional winners at annual awards ceremony at the London Palladium, which recognises young people who have made a difference in their lives and the lives of others.
The team which hail from Ayr, Kilwinning and Kilmarnock, built a sensory garden at Ayr’s Doonfoot Primary School.
“There’s a place called the Base at the school which looks after children on the autistic spectrum,” team member Kris Moyles said. “They told us that they’d wanted to build a sensory garden for ages, but didn’t have the money.
“So they gave us their wish-list and we started calling up local companies asking them to donate materials for it.”
The group, most of which had no building or gardening experience, built the garden from scratch with the help of local businesses who donated wood, fencing, cement mix, stone chips and money.
Local apprentices helped the team build a large wooden tepee. Prior to the project
"I used to do gardening a few years back, but I was never any good at it," said 21-year-old Jack Haxton.
Ms Connor added: "We really worked together as a team and used all our skills, and supported one another when we were struggling."
Two years later, the garden is so popular that all children at the school, including those without autism, are on a class rota to have time to play there.
“The garden project was amazing,” Mr Haxton said, and went on to describe how he felt shy before starting the project, but had since “come out of his shell”.
He added: “Building a sensory garden for the autistic base at Doonfoot was pretty big for me personally because I’m autistic, so it was something quite close to my heart.”
Former Spice Girl Melanie C, presenter of the Community Impact Award, said to young people thinking of supporting their local community: "If you have the opportunity to impact people in such a positive way I would just say go for it."
Actor Bryan Cranston cited the "great" work of young people fighting gun violence in the US in an interview with The independent at the awards ceremony.
He said to all young people out there hoping to make a change: "There are people in my generation who will support you."
Ayrshire Team 150 returned to the garden recently to visit and described being "very excited" seeing the garden enjoyed by the children.
Nick Stace, new Chief Executive of the Prince's Trust, said: "Young people are feeling less confident now than they ever have done...The role of the Prince's Trust is to be proactive rather than reactive to that situation."
Ms Connor has since gone on to work for the Prince's Trust, bringing more young people on board to participate in community projects.
"With the Prince's Trust, the possibilities are endless," she said.