Ashford Teens Create Sensory Garden for Kent Autistic Trust

Monday 27th November 2017

10 young people from the Ashford area have designed and create sensory garden for Kent Autistic Trust’s Ashford Resource Centre as part of charity CXK’s latest Prince’s Trust Team Programme; a scheme designed to help unemployed and vulnerable young people in Kent gain skills and find work, apprenticeships or return to education.


The participants, all aged between 16-25 and not in education, employment or training (NEET), spent two weeks designing and delivering the project at Kent Autistic Trust’s day centre in Willesborough; which began with the digging of turf and the laying of a membrane and shingle base. The team went on to create a variety of sensory items designed to engage the service users of the centre, including bamboo chimes, a gutter run, sensory box frames and sensory switches.

As part of the programme, the young people selected a number of skills they wanted to develop, and were coached to take ownership of the project and allocate roles and responsibilities based on their own interests, strengths and weaknesses. Those looking to build confidence or leadership skills were required to take charge of the team for at least one morning or afternoon each week; while those focusing on team-working had to participate in group tasks.

For many of the young people involved, this was the first time they had successfully worked in a team and completed a project. They developed team-working skills, learned to manage their emotions when conflicts arose, and learned resilience when working through poor weather conditions.

Aissame El Bakkali, Manager at Kent Autistic Trust’s Ashford Resource Centre, said; “I would like to thank all the volunteers from the Prince’s Trust for the wonderful work they have done at our day service, the garden makeover has made a huge difference to our day service and the people we support appear to be extremely happy with the final result. Having worked in the service myself for over 10 years I can definitely confirm that this is the best it has ever looked. Clare and Adam (project coordinators) have done great job at guiding and motivating the young volunteers, they were very friendly, hardworking and creative.”

Programme participant, Dannielle Woodgate, 18, commented; “At the beginning, we were daunted – we didn’t think we’d be able to get it all done – but we worked together really well as a team. We took in in turns to take the role of leader, shared ideas, and developed a good level of respect within the team. At the end, we felt a real sense of achievement. ”

Over the first few weeks of the course, the young people spent a week at a residential activity centre undertaking team-building activities, and learning problem-solving techniques that are vital for gaining employment. They then put the skills they had learned into practice during their community project, before moving on to undertake a two-week work placement in their field of interest. Later in the programme, they will develop their employability skills, and work on their interview and CV writing skills to ensure that their confidence is sky-high when taking their next steps.