Dunmow: Award-winning farm which provides activities for people with learning disabilities in plea for help

James and Carol Monk

James and Carol Monk - Credit: Archant

LIFE on a farm is never easy but for James and Carol Monk, it is not just about trying to make ends meet.

Students from Harlow Fields School and College

Students from Harlow Fields School and College - Credit: Archant

Every week the couple open their home, and their land, to students and older people with learning disabilities to give them opportunities they may not have had elsewhere.

Their youngest son, Martin, has a severe form of autism and the Monks understand how different experiences can help improve lives.

Carol told the Broadcast: “Martin made a great difference to our lives and this is why we do what we do. We have more experience and we know what people with learning disabilities need.”

When the Rainbow Rural Centre, in Sallet’s Farm, near Great Dunmow, first began it was just taking visitors for a few hours a week. Now, a few years on, it is providing a space for groups up to four times a week.

While there, they get to try a number of different activities including exploring the land, riding horses, planting seeds and even making jam.

They are also taught about healthy eating and wildlife.

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James said: “We give them opportunities to succeed and we give them the chance to do things out in the countryside.

“We also find that a lot of the students just like being outside. We are not silly enough to think everyone likes that, but there is nothing like seeing a child with a smile on their face.

“The best part of my week is working with the students.”

The 75-acre farm has been in James’ family for generations and the couple have big plans with how they want to use the space to continue helping their students – including a bigger area where they can all cook. Their most recent venture is two horses, which have been “getting a great response”.

However, the Monks do not have the means to continue running the workshops without any grants or funding, and they are appealing for help.

The community interest company, which is up for a Bayer CropScience amd Farming and Countryside Education Award, is desperate to continue and build on what they have already achieved.

Carol, 56, said: “We do not have the time to spend hours on the internet looking for how to get the grants. Even if somebody could come and tell us what we need to be applying for would be a great help.

“It is limitless what we can get involved in – we just need the help.”

To find out more about the centre, or to register your support in any way, visit rainbowrural.co.uk or call 01371 874803.