Fruit-full Communities

Fruit-full Communities aims to address some of society’s toughest challenges. Working with young people living in YMCA Housing Schemes, Supported Lodgings and/or attending YMCA Youth Groups, Fruit-full Communities aims to tackle a lack of social cohesion, create opportunities for young people, address climate change and environmental degradation.

This three year project launched in 2015 is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, and is part of a new initiative called Our Bright Future. It is led by Learning through Landscapes in collaboration with YMCA England, The Orchard Project and International Tree Foundation.

Fruit-full Communities provides an opportunity for people who may not have found school to be a very positive experience to learn and develop in ways that they might never have thought possible. As many as half of all young people are not in education, employment or training when they become homeless and 40% identify themselves as being depressed. By improving the physical environment in towns and cities across England, often in deprived areas, it is anticipated that Fruit-full Communities will encourage physical activity associated with green spaces and in the process improve young people’s mental health and self-esteem.

North Staffordshire YMCA planting days
North Staffordshire YMCA planting days
Residents at Norwich YMCA planting their orchard
Residents at Norwich YMCA planting their orchard
Norwich YMCA residents in their new orchard
Norwich YMCA residents in their new orchard

For the young people involved, Fruit-full Communities is also providing an introduction to horticulture, gardening, tree planting and woodwork, opening up opportunities for employment in the low-carbon job market.

In practical terms, young people from 50 YMCAs in England and Wales will design and plant orchards in their neighbourhoods. Not only will the new orchards attract diverse wildlife, they will also transform YMCA centres into more productive, more beautiful and inspiring places to live in or visit.

A series of workshops at each centre give young people and youth workers the skills they need to design, plant and care for the trees in their orchard. They are also learning about the importance of trees in protecting the environment, promoting biodiversity and ensuring sustainable global development.

Connecting young people around the world

For almost a century, International Tree Foundation has brought people together globally to protect and conserve the environment. Many of our African community partners are youth groups who have come together to protect their ecosystems, conserve their remaining forests and raise awareness about environmental degradation. One of our roles within this project is to facilitate communications between participants in the UK and young people planting trees in African countries. Young people from different backgrounds are using social media to connect and share their experiences of tree planting. Through peer learning, the participants are gaining a better understanding of the importance of trees for sustainable futures across the globe.

One resident involved in the project at YMCA Norfolk, who planted a ‘Queen Cox’ apple tree, said “I’m going to call mine Frankie, it’s like having a tree child which you can visit and will be here for years to come. And you can think I planted that, when you walk past and look up at your old window”.

“I’ve been living here for a year and a half and hadn’t met anyone until today!”, another resident at YMCA High Wycombe remarked.

Fruit-full Communities is one of International Tree Foundation’s three activities in the UK. Our other programmes are:

  • The UK Community Tree Planting Programme provides grants for community-based forestry projects to encourage social cohesion, well-being and an appreciation of trees. More information can be found here.
  • The Tree Power schools programme combines active outdoor education with learning about the global importance of trees; to encourage young people to become conservation leaders of the future. More information can be found here.
Sharing is caring: