2020 has been a strange and challenging year for Cambrian Wildwood as it has for the rest of the country. Our biggest disappointment was the inability to offer our face-to-face activities to the youth of the area at a time when engagement with nature would have been beneficial in coping with these unusual times. So, rather than resting on our laurels, we began to think of ways that we could support the young people from afar. The result was Nature Arts Drop.
During November hundreds of vulnerable children and young people in Ceredigion and Powys received activity packs as part of a project to support mental health and well-being while under the restrictions of Covid-19.
Nature Arts Drop – the first of its kind – distributes bags of creative materials to help families enjoy fun activities at home.
Based on the original Arts Drop programme that supported thousands of families in Calderdale, West Yorkshire during the first lockdown, Nature Arts Drop is the first to connect creativity with nature. Eventually, the scheme will have handed over 600 bags to key workers to distribute to children and young people who are isolated and adversely affected by poverty.
Clarissa, our Education Specialist, said, “I was fascinated by Arts Drop and felt it could work really well to support families in our area. At the time we felt frustrated that we could not meet and support the children and young people by running our education and welfare programmes on our land near Machynlleth. So being able to offer these activities was very important to us. ”
The bags, created for three age groups – 0 to 5, 6 to 11 and 12 to 18, are packed with materials such as sketchbooks, paint, colored paper, play-doh, glue, magnifying glasses and scissors. But perhaps the most important element in the bags is the bespoke set of postcards that present 20 simple, fun challenges including making a hedgehog or nature crown, weaving or going for a barefoot walk.
The packs and activities were designed under the guidance of Elaine Burke, an arts and health consultant who leads Arts Drop and she initiated the project after the pilot’s success in Calderdale.
Elaine said: “We had a great response to the first Arts Drop in Calderdale and when we heard that Cambrain Wildwood was interested in the scheme, we took the opportunity to add a brand new dimension by creating Nature Arts Drop. There is a misconception that people’s lives are perfect because they are surrounded by beautiful landscapes but we know that rural poverty is rising and that rural communities are experiencing all kinds of mental health difficulties. We also know that there are huge benefits to being outdoors in nature and when you combine nature and creativity you boost the effects of both. Getting children involved in such activities connects them to their place, takes them into the fresh air and develops their creativity. ”
Nature Arts Drop is supported by the Welsh Coronavirus Resilience Fund, which operates under the auspices of Community Foundation Wales, and the Covid-19 Moondance Support Fund. YPO Ltd, a Wakefield based organisation supplying products and services UK-wide to customers including schools and care homes, has continued its support of the Arts Drop Team. Chris Mold, the writer and illustrator from Halifax, again donated his services free of charge to redesign the special Nature Arts Drop logo that adorns the activity bags.
The packs have been distributed to schools, Barnardo’s Cymru, a center for Syrian refugee families and social services and initial responses have been extremely positive. Clarissa said, “Preparing the bags was a huge task but we hope that by connecting young people with nature, we will help improve the mental wellbeing of children and their families during the pandemic and beyond. Finding well paid jobs in the area is often a challenge. Levels of poverty are high and many working people do shift work, which is difficult when you have a family. Parents often do not have the time they would like to spend with their children outdoors.
“Part of the purpose of the packs is to give them ideas and confidence about how to use natural materials and things they can do with children outdoors. Through the bags we are sending a message to vulnerable children that they are important and that they have not been forgotten. ”