Touchstones – a mentoring project for young and old
Modern western culture is struggling. Young people are adrift, under more pressure than ever before in so many areas of their lives. Old people are increasingly isolated and lonely. There are many reasons for this but the fact is: it doesn’t have to be this way.
How many of you have friends outside of your immediate peer group: people who are considerably older – or younger – than you? This type of friendship can provide an incredible layer of support, wisdom and vitality that you don’t get by hanging out with people of your own age all the time.
That’s why we’ll be launching Touchstones next year. This mentoring project will bring the energy and vitality of youth and the wisdom of age together, in a mutually beneficial way. It will all be underpinned by a shared connection with nature and the chance to nurture and learn from the natural world.
It takes inspiration from many indigenous cultures around the world, where community elders have a key role in mentoring younger members of their tribe or clan. One of the important aspects of this relationship is that they are not blood relatives. Being outside of the traditional family unit means they are free from the preconceived assumptions or learned behaviours that come with parent-child or sibling relationships.
How many young people in this country today know an elder who will listen to them without any judgement? Who will point out their strong points and encourage them to develop their gifts, with no other motive than to honour their individual journey? This is what we hope to offer.
Mentoring will give them honest answers to their questions, feedback on how they’re doing and valuable advice on how to do things differently. It means they will be able to see their blind spots, value their strengths and learn to tackle their weaknesses. It also gives them something that many of them will struggle to find elsewhere in modern society: inner confidence.
We’re aiming for four key benefits:
- building confidence and emotional intelligence in young people
- combatting isolation, loneliness and depression in older people
- creating a new community of inter-generational friendships
- improving on the nature conservation work we’ve already done at our site.
The project will revolve around the creation of a permaculture garden and food growing area, which will become a connection hub for young and old. Participants will spend time preparing and cooking their food outdoors as well as growing it. They will also get the chance to interact with the animals on our biodynamic farm.
Participants will learn new skills, make new friends and get to spend time along, with others and – crucially – with nature.
But this more than a horticultural therapy project – it will be run by experienced facilitators who will find innovative ways to connect younger with older participants.
Over the past year we’ve held a series of community building events and workshops. We’ve heard many stories of disconnection, loneliness and depression from both young and old. Modern culture has fostered distrust and suspicion and there is a lack of opportunity for these two groups to come together in a positive way.