Project: Green Team

Location: Peterborough (also operates at Groundwork Trusts across the UK)

Badly bullied at school, Dan left education unable to read or write and without qualifications. He has lived with anxiety and depression for many years and has found it hard to find long-term work.

Partly as a way to manage his mental health, Dan has developed a passion for long-distance running, at one time running for his county. He still runs regularly and recently completed the London Marathon, despite an injury to his Achilles Tendon. It’s a sport that suits his love of hard work and being outdoors.

Dan’s Grandad was a gardener, which inspired him to try joining a Groundwork Green Team. Through the scheme Dan has learned that he prefers working in the fresh air and with plants. His team transformed the playground of a local school, creating a sensory garden and a wildlife garden with a storytelling area, pond and tools to help the school teach pupils about the environment. Dan enjoyed the fact that he was doing something worthwhile by giving something back to his community. He also picked up skills that he intends to use at home to create a sensory garden for his son, who is autistic.

I think it’s important. All the children are going to come back to school in September and they are going to see the new area. Knowing that I helped do it and make it makes me feel just as good.

Green Team has shown Dan a career he would like to pursue and given him the skills to do that. He intends to apply the same drive that allows him to complete marathons to this new career.

During the London Marathon my Achilles went. They wanted me to stop. But me being me, I had to finish. It’s like with this. I’m not going to stop, even if it gets hard.

Groundwork Green Teams

Groundwork Green Teams teach practical horticulture and landscape skills to people who need support to get into employment. This training is done on-the-job, with the teams doing real work to make the communities where they operate greener and better. Team members also get additional help and support that reflects their individual needs, such as mentoring, qualifications and guidance.

The hands-on and outdoor nature of the scheme suits many trainees, who often tell us that they did not do well in the school classroom. It is also common for trainees to have multiple barriers to getting work, such as mental or physical health issues or other challenges like growing up in care. For this reason team leaders need to be good not only at the teaching the skills for the job but also providing guidance, building a work ethic and confidence and tailoring support to individual trainees.

Green Team is the first step into a career in horticulture for many, but can also be valuable as a stepping-stone onto other things by providing participants with the qualifications or self-belief to get into other work or learning.