Sandown Community Kids are a fantastic group of young, really enthusiastic volunteer’s ages 7-11 who have a real passion for their community. They initially formed to take part in the South and South East in Blooms ‘Station in Bloom’ competition. The CRP (Community Rail Partnership) secured funding from ACoRP (Association of Community Rail Partnerships) and SWT (South West Trains) for schools along the Island Lines corridor, from Ryde to Shanklin. From there their aims and objectives for the group, and the organisations they worked with, grew as fast as the plants they planted!
They forged relationships with other groups and organisations in Sandown’s community, including a residential home, ‘The Briars’, to help improve the quality of the elderly residents lives by undertaking projects for them. This included shed renovation, planting up a lovely new garden and just spending quality time talking to the ladies and gentlemen of the home.
All of their work in Sandown and at the station was documented by the children, taking fierce pride in their improved civic realm that was fast becoming a talking point amongst locals and a point of interest for passengers. Whether tourists or residents, all appreciated the improvements made at the station, adding immensely to their enjoyment of taking the train and more importantly, encouraging more residents to do so. This was a real result and one of the groups’ top objectives.
They wrote bids, with the CRP’s support, to Sandown Town Council for money to buy 10 bird boxes to put at the station, encouraging birds to nest in the area which is monitored and recorded by the children. Passengers also love and remark on this.
The children also created a community garden to which they bring some of the residents from The Briars to visit on a regular basis. The residents appreciate this greatly, reminiscing about their lives when they used to take the steam train around the 48 miles of line then on the Isle of Wight. This they did also on judging day for the residents, to hear them sing to the judges, which secured them the coveted prize of an exciting trip to London.
The prize trip to London for all 35 children, teachers and volunteers was organised by the Chairman of the Royal parks Guild, Mike Fitt and the CRP with transport provided from Wightlink, South West Trains and a vintage Route Master personally loaned by Sir Peter Hendy, Commissioner of Transport for London. This took the children on a tour of Whitehall, Westminster Bridge, Trafalgar Square and Regent Street. The double decker then deposited the group at Hyde Park to participate in workshops at the Royal Parks Foundation Education Centre where the group were able to learn basic compass reading, pirate boat and flag making and weather forecasting. After a lunch, and the official presentation of the ‘IoW Stations in Bloom’ award by Peter Holman, Chairman of South and South East in Bloom, the whole group enjoyed goodie bags and a trip aboard Bluebeards Solarboat on the serpentine, which saw the day end in Kensington Gardens at the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, before the journey home which included a tube ride…..underground!
It was on this trip that the scrap book with all the recorded projects at the station and residential home, ideas for more projects, letters through the school newsletter to parents from the ‘Community Kids’ urging parents to car share or walk/take the train to school and all funding information was shown to SWT’s Andy Naylor, Head of Customer Experience and the idea for the book was born. The CRP felt, along with the volunteers from Community Kids that if they could encourage other schools to form their own ‘Community Kids’ as a branch of the CRP it would really make a difference to communities and transport all over the Island.
Funding was secured from Designated Community Rail Development Fund, the School, South West Trains and the Town Council to pay for an editor to work with the children to produce their book. The book would share best practice for new groups to forge links within their community to improve it and the lives of those living there; it would include ideas, funding advice, a station/transport adoption certificate and blank pages for new groups to create their own ideas about improving their own community areas around transport links. The children worked hard on writing more material and photographing/drawing editorial for the book.
At the end of the project and before the book was printed, the children were asked to take part in the CRP 10th anniversary at the Steam Railway in Havenstreet and to give a presentation about their Community Kids book project and what it meant to them. They did brilliantly and performed a song about being part of a community which was well received in front of an audience of 60 of the CRP partners and stakeholders.
The children then had an exciting trip to Bristol to see their book being printed at the printers. This trip was only made possible by the great partnership the CRP has with First Great Western, who kindly provided both the train trip for 21 children and adults to Bristol Templemeads and also bus transport to the printers.
It was a proud moment for the young people to see their work come to life in their own book, but more importantly they hope that the outcome will be an inspiration to other young people on the Island and mainland to take up the challenge to improve their communities and places of transport with the ultimate outcome of more people using the network, leaving their car at home reducing emissions and thus our carbon footprint.
The book has been delivered to 41 Island Schools and 20 Primary Schools in the New Forest.