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An Amazing Alpaca Adventure

Blog written by Becky Higgins

A day in the life of an Early Help Hub VCS co-ordinator can include a huge variety of experiences: From office based signposting for families, locating organisations and support in the community, linking organisations and creating networking opportunities to visiting fantastic people and organisations which support children and their families.
This day was one of those days when I had arranged a visit to Chy Lowen Alpaca’s, Tregaswith (CHAT), after hearing about their work at a networking meeting in Newquay.

CHAT is a non-profit organisation which uses alpaca’s, llamas and ponies to deliver Animal Assisted Intervention to anyone who needs it!


I arrived on a drizzly day to be enthusiastically greeted by Mary Harvey, who runs the project along with Mike Ferkin. I was welcomed into a cosy cabin and given a high viz vest to wear. A young person, who was a regular attendee, arrived and started to tell me about the animals, her mother explained that they come here regularly to help her child to gain confidence and boost self-esteem around some learning difficulties.

Next to arrive was a young adult with his carer, another regular who immediately got started with filling water containers. Mary, the young person and I walked up the road to collect 2 of the ponies. We had a wonderful welcome from Wally, Billy and Charlie who were keen to be led to the centre. I stood back and watched as Mary subtly supported the young person, who then proudly led Charlie to the stall where the ponies were fed. Once happily chomping away on food prepared by the 2 young people, who helped each other sort out the breakfast, we then headed on to the next task.


In the alpaca and llama field eager faces met our arrival, eyeing the feeding buckets we carried. We were joined by another young adult who brought some grapes as treats for her favourite alpaca Reuben, and some medical supplies as a general donation. I was told about the different backgrounds and personalities of the alpacas and llamas, many of whom were rescued themselves and are all individual characters.

Mary explained that they do not charge for their sessions but are happy to accept donations, whether money towards insurance or in the form of animal food or items they need. This supplements the money raised by loyal volunteers at events, and items made from alpaca wool which are sold to raise funds. In a short time the animals were munching happily and being hand fed extra grapes by the young people there. I took the opportunity to take some photos, whilst keeping a wary eye on a llama who had a suspicious look on his face! Another young person arrived and a round of knuckle bumping ensued amongst the youngsters before heading to the cabin for refreshments.

Although their individual needs were different and there was quite an age range between the people there, it was noticeable how they all helped each other to care for the animals either supported by Mary or spontaneously reacting when needed. Mary explained that it is a positive environment with a culture of kindness and positivity. There is no referral process and they support adults and children in need of this type of therapy with no fixed fee. Whether it’s emotional or mental health difficulties, lack of confidence and self-esteem, youth offending, bereavement, bullying, bad life experiences ………. the list is endless. Mary and the animals are accepting and non-judgemental in the support they offer.

I reluctantly came away but left with a feeling of happiness, it’s always a joy to meet people who give their time so passionately and selflessly to support others through voluntary action. I know the Disabled Children’s Team, Early Help Hub and Early Help staff will be excited to be able to signpost families to this fantastic organisation.

Working Together with Children & Family Services - Mid Cornwall Event

Written by Becky Higgins

The way forward in supporting children and their families is to link the Voluntary and Community Sector and Children and Family Services together to offer the best and most appropriate support for families and young people in their own communities. Networking events are planned in East, Mid and West Cornwall with the first of these being in Mid Cornwall this week.

A ‘Speed Dating’ style event was the structure of the day with the Voluntary and Community Sector organisations sharing information with Children’s Services, Health and Education professionals. An event which was planned to be small and intimate quickly grew to over 80 attendees, all with a passion to support young people and their families to live the happiest most fulfilling lives they can. The volume of people meant the pace of the morning was fast and furious with only 3 minutes each to outline their organisations and projects. Everyone rose to the occasion and worked hard to get their message across to public sector frontline workers.

The room was buzzing with chatter as huge amounts of information was imparted at record speed. The intense concentration showed on the listeners faces only to be broken by the blast of the whistle when it was time to change speaker. Despite feeling weary and with fading voices the feedback was positive from both Voluntary and Community Sector and Public Sector agencies, with some positive suggestions to help to shape the future events. One organisation quoted ‘a rare opportunity for so many like-minded professionals to connect and find out more about the services we all provide, and quite an eye-opener in terms of the provision that is out there for the Mid-Cornwall area’.

We are all looking forward to the West Cornwall Event with the Early Help teams from locality one and two, meeting in Penzance in March, which should be as lively and informative.

Brannel School's Young Volunteers

Written by Rose Taylor

I was delighted to be invited along to Brannel School and talk to a group of students who are volunteering as part of the ‘Brannel Challenge.’ Designed by the school to give pupils a chance to try different activities, the whole school go off timetable on Wednesday afternoons and enjoy everything from surfing to gardening and book clubs.


The current volunteering group included 16 students from years 7, 8 and 9 and had already done two sessions at Café CHAOS, helping with the garden. Next week, they’re off to Cornwall Hospice Care to help sort out the warehouse and earn more credits through Timebanking Your Way, our youth volunteering project.


We talked about what volunteering is and come up with 3 rules: you can’t get paid, you can’t be made to volunteer, and you have to help someone (or something – we decided this includes the environment, animals, and buildings). We agreed that, in the future, you might be able to volunteer to help aliens as well but that further discussion would have to wait for NASA to make an announcement…


Working in groups, we brainstormed ideas about how volunteering can help you and the community. Some popular answers were around meeting new people, helping you decide on a career and learning new skills – a good follow on from the gardening they’d been doing the week before. The colourful posters they created are going to be part of a board display in the school, along with photos from CHAOS.


The last fifteen minutes were all about looking to the future. What problems in Brannel School, in their home towns and the world at large could be fixed with volunteers – everything from tidying up the local park and helping out at youth clubs ( ‘they never have enough people to do it right,’) to large scale environmental campaigns and fundraising groups. Lots of ideas for next year’s volunteering groups to consider!


It was a great opportunity to spend some time with some Timebanking Your Way members, and to see the early stages of what will be a wonderful volunteering project.

How did you spend your Saturday

Meeting in St Austell on Saturday, I joined the latest induction session for people who wish to become CIVAS (Independent Visitor and Advocacy Service for children and young people in Cornwall) volunteers with Volunteer Cornwall in partnership with Barnardo’s in Cornwall for one of the two volunteering roles.


An Independent Visitor where  the  volunteer is matched with a young person who is currently in care and would benefit from having an adult friend to visit regularly and  take them out and an Advocate who meets with a child or young person to ensure their voice is heard at meetings where decisions are being made about them.

The induction is just the first part of the training and support given to enable volunteers to engage with vulnerable young people and help to make a difference to their lives.

For more information contact Judy Baker via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 01872 266993

Networking with a twist

When you’re invited to a networking event you often have the idea that it will be about meeting new people/new organisations, sitting around a table sharing news, ideas and updates. Not so with Young People Cornwall and Your way East Cornwall.

It was more a team bonding and getting mucky event with Transferable Skills Training (TST) an educational centre specialising in teaching vocational skills to young people and adults on Merryhue farm, Callington. There were fantastic facilities for young people as well as a farm filled with various poultry, pigs, alpacas goats and ponies. Courses are also offered in Animal Husbandry and personal development.

After splitting into three groups and foolishly ticking all the options I found myself beginning the morning sessions with Rock Climbing. I have never rock climbed and was very relieved that I was harnessed. I soon discovered you need upper arm strength tough hands and a head for heights. I got half way, twice before giving up and admitting defeat, maybe after losing a few stone and preparing with a few press ups might I give it another try!

Bush craft was next, much nicer feet firmly on the ground and our task of constructing a bivvie tent in the woods (a very low lying tent used by the army tied between two trees) turning out to be something I could be proud of, however you would not have got me to enter it!

A bit of mountain biking next, oh lordy lordy, what had I let myself in for? We had helmets and gloves and powerful bikes, riding through the mud and leaves felt like riding through treacle, however it was also exhilarating and helped build up a good appetite for the pasty lunch. I had sore hands, sore arms and a rather sore posterior but came away feeling that as a grandmother I am still able to learn and try out new things, there is a first time for everything, what about a parachuting networking event next time haven’t done that before! 

Me below celebrating constructing my first Bivvie Tent! The Alpacas who live on the farm.