January 31, 2022United KingdomSmiling BrightAnimals on campus give students a boostFor children at Pirbright Village Primary School in Surrey, going to school just got a lot brighter. Nestled in the grounds on campus is Pirbright Nurture Farm, a therapy farm of small animals whose only job is to make children feel good.The resident animals at Pirbright Farms provide much needed support for children returning to school after a long period away.Teachers Dan Smith and his wife, Helen, recognized the impact of animals on positive mental health and were looking for land to create a therapy farm. When Smith spoke to Gavin Dutton, his headteacher at Pirbright, they concluded that having a nurture farm on the school grounds could have a positive impact on the most vulnerable children.“It seemed like an excellent idea,” says Dutton. “We had some areas which we could free up for the project and we saw the opportunities for our pupils and the wider community.”The concept was that children would attend a series of sessions to support their specific needs, where they would look after the animals, improve the environment, and grow crops. The personalized and nurturing sessions would be available to children of all ages and could also support vulnerable families around Guildford, Woking, and beyond.However, to get the project off the ground, they would need help. So Dutton and Smith asked the Guildford Lions for their support. They were the first to pledge financial support of £3,000 (US$4016).Guildford Lions were the first to pledge financial support of £3,000 (US$4016).“The commitment from the Guildford Lions inspired us to push on,” says Smith. “By September 2019, we had secured the rest of the money needed to make the project a reality.” The construction of the farm area began.The project was in full flow by March 2020, and despite lockdown the project continued and the first animals arrived. “In some ways, the period of lockdown gave us the chance to complete everything to a high standard without deadlines and extra pressures. It also gave us time to help the animals settle in,” says Smith.Guildford Lions have now committed a further £500 (US$670) towards the farm so that Clementine and Martha can have their own field shelter, wallow-pool, and feeding troughs.The farm sits at the front of the school, so it became a regular stopping off point for members of the local community as they took their daily walks.In September of 2020, the farm started to provide much needed support for children returning to school after a long period away. It also provided vital transition sessions for new military pupils, giving them a chance to spend time with their new classmates.Helen is now running sessions weekly for individuals or pairs of children from a variety of schools, family sessions, and ‘wake-up’ sessions first thing in the morning. There are four Duke of Edinburgh volunteers fulfilling their responsibilities for their awards and a regular group of adult volunteers.Thanks to funding and community support, especially from the Guildford Lions who provided the initial funding, Pirbright Nurture Farm is flourishing, with more than 30 animals including goats, pigs, hens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, tortoises, and lizards, as well as allotments and a greenhouse.Guildford Lions have now committed a further 500 (US$670) towards the farm so that Kunekunes (a breed of small pig), Clementine and Martha, can have their own field shelter, wallow-pool, and feeding troughs.The aim is to eventually be able to run sessions in the summer holidays to provide respite for families during the long period away from school. For now, the children—and the community—will enjoy the company of the farm’s animals and take those good feelings into the work they do in the classroom and in the world.