The ACRE Project provides internal and external spaces for the community to gather in and to use. These spaces have been designed to enable the community engage with their environment through horticultural, ecological and developmental activities. However, while the project has the community at the centre of its design, in consultation with the core group, those availing of the space decide how they want to use it. Examples include photography, creative writing, basket making, community mothers’ programme, men’s coffee club, personal development and art & craft courses.
Developing this concept of space is a unique feature of the project. The space which the project provides, both inside and outside, allows the community work with nature, relax, be at peace, move quickly from urban to rural, connect with others, explore and express their creativity, and use the space to network and cross generational boundaries. As the project considers it to be essential for any well-functioning community, it strives to be welcoming, friendly and flexible. It is somewhere that the community can ‘be’ and can ‘do.’
Developing a project which includes a focus on living in harmony with the environment is a core principle of The ACRE Project. It has reclaimed an over-grown un-used plot of land which is now available to the local community and its young people. The facility has been designed to minimise its impact on the environment and is an example of energy sustainability in both design and day-to-day operation. It is planned to continue the development of the site with Phase Two.
In spite of being on the doorstep of an urban centre, the site has the potential of being a natural haven. Meeting, working or relaxing in such a space will encourage young and old to value in a more handson way the cycles of nature and how they impact on daily life.
Many young people and young adults need support at some stage in their lives. Research and experience show that over one fifth of a school-going population will experience difficulties which can be expressed in terms of educational, emotional, spiritual, physical, behavioural or social needs. Being in direct contact with nature, in an open, friendly and family-like environment does have strong benefits and educational and therapeutic effects for young people. Collaboration between the various education providers, youth services and the community is a way forward for helping young people to tap into their own potential in an ever-changing and sometimes impersonal society.
The ACRE Project provides opportunities for further education (both formal and informal), sheltered work experiences and developing independent living skills. To date the facilities are currently used to deliver horticultural modules to TY students, LCA students and students with learning and behavioural difficulties. Discussions on a suitable programme for participants in The Bridge Project (local Garda Diversion Project) are at an advanced stage.
The ACRE Project is building a database of adult volunteers who, drawing on their own professional and personal backgrounds, are willing to share their skills and personal time to mentor young people and young adults. Currently, considering the eco-friendly nature of the project, there is interest in volunteering across many sectors of the local community, from business to retired people, from artists to those in trades.
With this in mind, two members of the ACRE team have already attended the Kildare Volunteers Training programme. Members have also attended Leargas information and training workshops with a view to the establishment of youth-in-action programmes in the areas of citizenship and entrepreneurial skills.
Just as being in direct contact with nature has strong benefits for youth, it also has benefits for the wider community. Building on this principle The ACRE Project will seek to provide activities for those people who feel that they do not fit into the more structured programmes of formal education. It will also seek to use these activities, where relevant, to encourage participants to engage in back-to-work or back-toeducation initiatives. As a starting point the project will encourage people to “drop-in,” feel welcome and get involved with the day-today general gardening activities. By working to build this into a creative, social and community network the project will offer opportunities for:
a meeting place for community clubs;
a small business incubation centre;
engaging with the unemployed;
engaging with early-school-leavers;
workshops in Arts & Crafts.
Registered charity number CHY 19854
Registered Office: Salesian College, Celbridge, Co. Kildare
Registered in Ireland as a company under guarantee number 504580
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