Edinburgh-based charity, The Green Team, provides transformational experiences that connect children and young people to nature.
The team is passionate about protecting the natural environment and using it as means for young people to have fun, enhance wellbeing and to develop skills and coping strategies that will contribute to them fulfilling their potential.
We caught up with The Green Team's Business Development Manager, Jamie Leitch, to discuss the work of the charity and its future plans.
The Green Team volunteers removing tree tubes (© The Green Team)
About The Green Team
The organisation was formed in 1995 in response to the lack of opportunities for young people to get involved with environmental volunteering as part of the Duke of Edinburgh's Awards Scheme. We are an inclusive organisation with a focus on providing opportunities for children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and who might not have the same opportunities as others to engage in the outdoors.
Our first programme, Green Volunteers, still runs, with 89 young people contributing over 3,000 hours of their time in 2022 to take part in activities such as tree planting, removal of invasive plants, path maintenance, litter picks and building wildlife habitats.
Since the launch of the charity, the need to provide interaction with the great outdoors for young people continues to grow. A government paper 'The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature', published by DEFRA in 2011 showed that the likelihood of children visiting any greenspace at all has halved in a generation. We're committed to playing our part in addressing this issue by getting disadvantaged young people out into the great outdoors.
To ensure that children from across Edinburgh have the opportunity to engage in the outdoors, we have created a range of programmes which focus on responding to specific needs.
Our Green Schools programme provides primary school pupils with an opportunity to explore local greenspaces and to take part in outdoor learning. This includes the opportunity to build mini shelters for cuddly toys so that they can learn more about natural materials, discuss what makes a good home and consider how climate change might affect nature and our own homes.
For secondary school children, we run our Green Shoots programme which works with children who may be struggling to cope with issues including childhood trauma, neurodivergence, social isolation, behavioural issues, lack of self-esteem or not engaging with education.
Over several weeks and in small groups, the young people visit different sites, including Bonaly Country Park, Bawsinch Nature Reserve, Corstorphine Hill and Leadburn Community Woodland, where they take part in conservation activities, learn wilderness survival skills and enjoy nature-based games to build confidence, develop resilience and enhance teamwork and communication skills. This course also gives the young people an opportunity to work towards achieving a John Muir Award, an environmental award scheme which focuses on wild places.
Our Thrive programme promotes positive mental wellbeing through deep nature experiences and respite from daily life. Thrive experiences allow young people to connect with nature and to take pride in caring for the natural environment while meeting new people and being offered a safe space for open discussions around a warm fire with a hot chocolate. In addition to this work, we run sessions for young carers, projects for pre-school children and their parents, all girl groups, holiday activities and lots more.
Working with local corporations
As a charity, our ability to try new things and to do more relies on the generosity of some amazing volunteers and those who support our work. Local companies and organisation are a key element of that support network, and we strongly believe in the mutual benefits of such partnerships.
The Green Team extends its work with young people to activities for corporate groups - providing enjoyable sessions in nature that can support teambuilding and enhance wellbeing whilst taking practical action to protect the local natural environment and fulfilling sustainability goals.
Days can be tailored to suit the needs of different groups by flexing the length of the session and selecting activities that provide the right balance of relaxing wellbeing activities and/or hard conservation graft. Income generated from these sessions is used to support our work with young people.
We are delighted that through VisitScotland and making contacts through their 'Journey: The Business Events Conversation' conference we have been able to develop new partnerships with the business events sector. This includes supporting activity days at Winton Castle and providing bushcraft skills sessions to a visiting group as part of their experience.
Julie Britee, Sales Manager at Winton Castle said: "It was lovely to work with the Green Team and for them to support our proposition, knowing that in return Winton Castle was supporting the amazing work that they undertake. We look forward to exploring more opportunities together as part of our commitment to sustainability and enhancing the local community."
As well as organising outdoor activity sessions for groups as part of their conferences or meetings, there are a lot of different of ways to support our work which can be discussed on an individual basis. The Green Team door is always open to explore ways to work together.
The future of The Green Team
The twin needs of supporting vulnerable young people and protecting our planet become increasingly evident every day and we want to continue to do what we can to support wider efforts.
We are constantly looking for ways to increase our impact and engage the younger generation. For example, following a suggestion from our Youth Panel, a group which meets regularly and provides feedback to our Board, we ran a focus group on neurodivergence and will now be running a pilot project, NeuroSpicy, in the summer. The project will provide neurodivergent young people with the space to be themselves whilst enjoying activities in nature.
Through our programmes we provide lasting and positive life-changing experiences in three core areas: connecting with nature, connecting with others and connecting with self.
Over the next 10 years we aim to build a legacy of positive, transformational and lasting experiences for our stakeholders through securing a sustainable and long-term future for the organisation.
To find out more about The Green Team visit - www.greenteam.org.uk.