Fresh Start 4U celebrate the progress the project has made since its launch in July 2015. The project has helped many ex-offenders in the past 12-months and looks to help improve the lives of many more as the project continues to grow.
For many, Fresh Start 4U improves confidence and self esteem and can be the springboard back into the world of work.
This month (July) marks the first anniversary of the launch of the project, funded by Bradford Council and supported by Parks Staff helping ex-offenders to put their time to a useful purpose planting and developing community beds in several parks throughout Bradford and district.
Fresh Start 4U also aims to reduce reoffending by bridging the gap to employment for those who have offended in the past. Produce such as vegetables and edible flowers are being planted as part of the project, linking in with the Incredible Edible ethos. Launched in Todmorden in 2007, the Incredible Edible scheme aims to bring communities together through food growing. The impact it has had so far has been far reaching, with its development into a national and international network.
Living in Todmorden, Fresh Start 4 U project manager, Alison Bunn, has seen the benefits firsthand. There are currently more than 100 Incredible Edible projects in the UK and more than 700 across the globe.
Linking in with the scheme, Fresh Start 4U, has already developed gardens in Bradford’s Peel Park, Cliffe Castle Park in Keighley and, more recently, volunteers have been planting edible flowers such as lavender in Horton Park, Bradford.
The aim is for members of the public to pick the produce to use in cooking - but sadly, this has been taken to another extreme with the theft of several plants from the beds over the past few months.
Although they haven’t reported the thefts to the police, Alison hopes to raise awareness among members of the community and those using the park and asks them to be more vigilant.
“We are appealing for other park users to enjoy the park and use it for what it is there for but to be a bit vigilant. If they see us we are putting them (the plants) in, but if they see someone taking them out that is clearly someone who is taking the plants,” she says. Alison estimates around 10 plants have been taken over the past few months, which also impacts on the project and spoils it for the rest of the community. “It is quite frustrating for the service users who are trying to put something back into their community,” she says.
Alison explains Fresh Start 4U is aiming to help those with a range of issues such as debt or mental health problems which may have caused them to offend. Fresh Start 4U gives them the opportunity, not only to put something back into the community, but also to channel their energies into something positive; something which is making a difference and giving them the skills to improve their employment prospects.
Since its launch more than 30 service users have been supported by the programme, including one who has been involved with the criminal justice system since he was 11 - he is now in his 40s. According to Alison he has been volunteering successfully for six months and is now seeking employment. “It is to try and help people not to re-offend who have problems in their life. They may have a housing issue, debt or mental health problems.”
“The main thing is to help stop people re-offending and take positive steps forward.”
Alison explains they now have two community gardens, one at Peel Park and Cliffe Castle park.
“What we find with gardening is it is good at developing their employability and life skills,” says Alison. Adding: “It is such an opportunity for our service users to do something positive.”
Nabbil Khan, chairman of the Friends of Horton Park group, said: “The Friends of Horton Park group want Horton Park to be a place that everyone can enjoy and we support the great work that the Fresh Start 4U project does in helping ex-offenders to give something back to their communities.
“It is a shame that this is being spoiled by a small minority who think it is acceptable to steal plants.”
Coun Abdul Jabar, Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for neighbourhoods and community safety, said: “It is really good to see people involved in this project doing something for the community and at the same time really sad that others are crushing their efforts.
“We ask people in the community to be vigilant and report anyone seen stealing plants from the flower beds to the police.”
Fresh Start 4U is looking for community groups in the Horton Park area to be involved in the growing project.
For more information, or to get involved, contact email@example.com