On one of the first days of the school holidays, the girls and I decided to pay a visit to our online friends, a wonderful local project called People and Gardens. They don't open to the public so we were very honoured that they gave up their time to welcome us.
In a nutshell People and Gardens is a salad and herb nursery that supply produce to the Eden Project for their cafés. But it is much much more than that. Started by Ken and his wife Lorraine nearly 17 years ago, this place is a calm, supportive haven, an oasis where adults with emotional troubles or learning disabilities can come together, work and socialise, bringing independence and control into their lives.
Of course Ken and Lorraine have taken on more than the typical roles of employers. In many cases they advise, support, are carers, motivate their staff with team sports and even trips together. Their no-nonsense approach to life means that everyone is encouraged to help each other, and respect for the rest of the team is paramount.
Because expectations are high, the first thing that struck me on arrival was the overwhelming sense of fulfillment and confidence that everyone had. It was a calm place too with smiles and jokes in abundance.
The girls clearly felt this as well, and greated Ken and his team with hugs and within minutes they were enthusiastically helping plant salad, clean and trim spring onions and pick tomatoes being grown for the Cornish Ketchup Co.
Oddly, I realised before we left home that Mia had never had much contact with adults with a Down's Syndrome and I had wondered how she would react when she met the staff. This was a case of me thinking too deeply, because she immediately felt at home.
Everyone sat together for lunch, and the girls shared around some cake we had made that morning.
Then it was time for... a spot of cricket.
What? Don't you play cricket after lunch in your place of work? Both girls joined in but Mia simply couldn't be dragged away and in fact got quite competitive.
We were absolutely bowled over (excuse the pun) by what we saw at People and Gardens.
We will definitely be back soon to volunteer our help, and I urge anyone who can support this project, which is after all a charity that struggles to pay as many workers as it can, either financially or with your time, to do so.
Oh, and if you live in the St Austell area you can order their delicious veg bags too. Yummm. We were sent home with a scrummy selection to sample.
More projects like this please.