Women escaping a life of domestic abuse are planting the seeds for an independent future
Abberton Rural Training works with domestic abuse charity Next Chapter to support those living in the Women’s Refuge in Colchester or women in north and mid Essex recovering from domestic abuse.
The mission is to aid recovery by giving women access to rustic recovery activities, enabling them to be more active outdoors, to learn new skills, to learn about healthy eating, and to improve their physical and mental health.
Grow-your-own lessons and kits give women moving from the refuge back into the community the means to grow fruit and vegetables and to develop their new interest at home.
Once living back in the community, the project gives women an opportunity to progress their horticultural skills and attend weekly women-only training sessions, leading to community volunteering and skills training.
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) contributed £21,463.60 to Abberton Rural Training in the form of a crime and disorder reduction grant from the 2020-2021 Community Safety Development Fund to roll out the Rustic Recovery Programme. The work helps the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst, deliver against their priority of supporting the victims of domestic abuse and reducing vulnerability.
The project has helped people like Vicky*, a methadone user who has been living at the refuge since escaping an abusive relationship. Keen to leave drugs behind and to build a new life, she has been learning how to grow fruit and vegetables as part of her journey. She has been given structure to her day and given the skills needed to find work and lead a more independent life.
CEO Jacqui Stone said: “We have certainly seen how beneficial the programme has been for the ladies and seen them really blossom under our tutor’s guidance. Tutor Beverly Baker has been amazing with them and been able to assist them in so many ways – from using a drill and a saw for the first time, using old items of furniture to make new items, as well as the core objective of learning how to grow their own food.
“This is giving women something that is not just about being a victim; it is something they can own. Even if it is not gardening they are interested in; they are learning transferable skills. They are learning that they are capable. Some are getting qualifications; others are getting jobs. Some have learnt something new to do with their children or simply for their own sanity.
“It has given women opportunities for the future. It has given them hope, a feeling of self-worth and raised their confidence. Women are opening up for the first time. They are not there as patients; they are there for their own learning and are in control. They are doing something for themselves.
“There would be no chance of this work without the funding. It is absolutely vital.
“We have been as inspired by the women as they are by us. They have been phenomenal with the strength they have managed to find in really difficult circumstances. They are opening like a flower and flourishing. It has been amazing.”
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner said: “Protecting those most vulnerable from harm and breaking the cycle of domestic abuse is so important and are key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan. It is remarkable what power being outdoors can have on people and I am thankful to charities like Abberton Rural Training whose passion and commitment are truly making a difference to women’s lives. It has been a pleasure supporting you in your work.”
*name has been changed.