Big Leaf Foundation is a small charity working with displaced young people in Surrey. Our aim is to provide a nurturing programme of activities, projects and events that focus on combating social isolation and improving wellbeing for the young people we support. 

For the third year running Romy and the team welcomed us, and a group of young people from the Middle East and Africa, to Trill Farm for our annual summer camp. 

For most of our young people this is their first time outside of an urban environment in the UK. We want them to relax, to take a break from their worries, to eat well, sleep well, experience something new, be outside and have fun. 

Romy and Mariel take care of this side of things for us – creating a packed programme of activities encompassing everything from woodwork, pottery and leatherwork to organic gardening, falconry and equine therapy, with games, music and campfires crammed in between. There’s even a treetop walkway with a zip wire through the woods. 

But the week is more than just the sum of its activities.

It gives our young people space to breathe. The early stages of resettlement can be exhausting and we often hear complaints of head and stomach pains. Some find the herbal teas, grown in Trill Farm’s herb garden, ease their stomach and help them sleep. We have a timetable but no one gets up too early and there is much-needed time to rest.

It provides a much-needed sense of community – everyone is entirely accepted and genuinely welcomed at Trill; it offers a break from isolation and boredom – here there’s always something to do, and someone to do it with, and it’s a chance to improve language skills and further their understanding of life in the UK. 

Something we hear time and again in academic research and through direct experience is this: to be received with respect and kindness, to meet compassion and understanding in the early days of resettlement, and to build a trusted relationship with an adult can make all the difference to the ability of separated children to find their feet and to move forward with a sense of hope for a secure future here.

Our time at Trill Farm is short, but it gives our young people this.

When we look at all the beautiful work produced during the week, we notice the same messages repeated again and again; carved into wood, stamped into leather and etched into pottery. 'Never Give Up', 'Freedom', 'Peace', 'Democracy', 'Justice' and from almost everyone, 'I love you, Mum'. 

On our final day we have lunch on the beach at Seaton... and as we leave M turns to us and says, “This week, I am happy”.

To the fabulous Trill Farm team, there are no words to adequately express our heartfelt thanks for your generosity, patience, humour and compassion. Romy, Mariel, Steve, Julian, Sam, Ash and Kate, Digby and Stan, Chris and Anna, Jonathan, Fiona, Patrick, Sue, Karen, Ali and Rosa, thank you.

Vicki Felgate is a co-founder and trustee of the Big Leaf Foundation, with many years of experience as a teacher and in the charity sector.