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The Larches Trust Plants the Seeds for Independent Living

  • Published: 2010-06-11 : Author: Monique Lester
  • Synopsis: People with a learning disability often experience social discrimination and are generally undervalued and underestimated by society.

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A North West London based charity has developed an initiative, using gardening and horticulture as a training medium, to offer adults with learning disabilities, autism or mental health issues the opportunity to develop skills to live a more independent life.

The program is designed to increase self esteem and the chance of gaining meaningful employment.

The Larches Community is a registered charity founded in 1995 by a group of families looking to provide care and opportunities for adults over eighteen years of age who have a learning disability.

People with a learning disability often experience social discrimination and are generally undervalued and underestimated by society. Most are socially excluded, with few opportunities to develop their individuality, or to contribute their skills to the community.

The Larches Community is constantly looking for new ways to educate and empower people who have less opportunity to be included in the community. Linda Edwards, the charities' CEO, says, "Disabled people sometimes become defined by others by their disability, are not valued and are often excluded from society. Accessing the benefits of horticulture can change this and enable them to be valuable and valued members of the community."

Many adults with 'higher functioning' autism and Aspergers syndrome are of substantial intellect and ability, but have complex barriers that need to be overcome before they can successfully enter employment. Many of these stem from the disability itself, which is characterized by impaired communication and imaginative ability.Yet they also have a great deal to offer employers and can, with the right support, have successful careers.

The new project is a horticulture based training course, which will provide participants with an real opportunity for independent living. Social and therapeutic horticulture also develops social and work skills, literacy and numeracy skills, an increased sense of general well being and the opportunity for social interaction and the development of independence. In most cases, those that experience the biggest impact from such projects are people who are vulnerable or socially excluded, such as those with learning disabilities and within the autistic spectrum.

The horticultural programs are run by the Larches Community Project Manager, Les Silvester. Les has nineteen years experience of working with people with learning disabilities and is passionate about helping people to strive towards their true potential. "It's so important to give everyone a chance when it comes to employment and a sense of self fulfillment and self sufficiency", says Les. "This initiative by the Larches Trust is going to provide a whole new outlook on life for all the participants."

The Larches wants to offer the chance to many more people to become working and contributing members of society. Our first programs are being run in Kenton Recreational Park and will cover everything from team building, planting, cultivating, health and safety and first aid. Participants can either attend a one day a week workshop, or take part in the five days a week, certified qualification program.

Over time, this project is set to become a much larger initiative. Initially the participants have come from local job centers and local community contacts, but Linda Edwards says "We would like to see this program happening in centers all over London and giving many people who would not necessarily have been able to work in mainstream society, a chance for a fulfilled and successful future."

I you would like to join the project as a learner or volunteer, or you would like to make a contribution to The Larches Community, please contact Les Silvester 020 8905 6333 or visit

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