The Lieutenant Governor said he was "bowled over" after visiting GROW’s landmark £3million redevelopment yesterday.
Lieutenant General Richard Cripwell and his wife, Louise, spent around two hours with the charity for people with learning disabilities. After meeting staff and crew at their temporary premises at Avondale in Oatlands Lane, Mr and Mrs Cripwell toured the redevelopment site at the Coutanchez and said they could not have been more impressed.
"It's hard to see that there could be anything better than this anywhere," said Mr Cripwell.
"It's so focused on meeting the needs of people who require this support to live their lives in the best way they can. I have been bowled over by the amount of thought that has gone into this new facility.
"It's extraordinarily impressive. It's easy to see achievement in terms of concrete and wood, but really this is an achievement about people.
"It was a wonderful thing to meet the men and women working at [Avondale]. Then it is a delight to come here and see what more might be possible and to see the initiative and imagination that is going into this redevelopment."
Pictured: Lieutenant Governor Richard Cripwell and his wife, Louise, made their first visit to GROW's Coutanchez site yesterday. Credit: Chris George.
GROW – this year's charity partner of CONNECT magazine – announced at the end of August that it had reached its £3million fundraising target for the ambitious redevelopment. It hopes to begin moving there in the summer.
The new site will support training and mentoring for a wide range of economic sectors while retaining the charity's traditional tutoring in horticulture. A workshop will allow the crew to work with wood and metal. They will make goods in a paint shop and craft area for sale in a retail space on site. A wellness and fitness studio will promote healthy lifestyles and there are plans for a training café which will be open to the public.
"The thing which really shines through to me is the range of activities which will go on here," said Mr Cripwell.
"Some of it will replicate work going on now [at Avondale] but in the most environmentally friendly and effective way. But you can see in the facilities that are being developed here just how much flexibility and potential there is.
"They will be able to teach individual skills and skills which will be most useful in a business environment as well as being able to react to potential changing needs in the future."
Pictured: Mr and Mrs Cripwell were delighted to meet the GROW crew and then see the additional opportunities that will be available to them when they move back to their redeveloped permanent home. Credit: Chris George.
Mr and Mrs Cripwell spent time talking to members of the GROW crew.
"It was lovely talking to them about what they do now and how much they enjoy doing it. Their pleasure is evident," said Mr Cripwell.
"What is clear is that people are doing things that they enjoy, that might stretch them, that allow their creative ability to shine through."
Mr Cripwell told Express he would "love to come back when it’s finished" in 2023 and pledged any practical support he could offer to the redevelopment.
"What I'd really love to do is see how we might be able to help. It's not just about coming to see things. It's about saying: is there something we can do to help the men and women who are using these facilities?"
Pictured: Marguerite Talmage and other GROW leaders and volunteers explained how current and future members of the crew will benefit from the £3million redevelopment project. Credit: Chris George.
GROW recently appointed Karen Blanchford as General Manager and Richard Portsmouth as Training Manager. They said that staff have been visiting their new site and the crew will gradually be introduced to it over the next few months.
"Staff are thrilled with the space. It's phenomenal. We're all thrilled. I don't think I can remember going to work with such a big smile on my face. The crew are fabulous and the staff are seeing the opportunities this new site will provide," said Ms Blanchford.
"We're going to have life skills training – washing, clothes, cooking, using a fridge and things like that. We'll have a training kitchen and café. We’ll have our own training space to work with organisations like the Guernsey Disability Alliance and Guernsey Employment Trust. We will eventually have facilities for the crew to learn retail skills.
"At the moment, not too many of the crew move into employment, but we will hopefully do more of that. The new facilities will be so flexible and provide opportunities galore. We're hoping it will be a community space, too – not only a GROW space."
Mr Portsmouth said that relocating the crew back to the Coutanchez from Avondale would need to be done sensitively.
"We need to take a very careful approach to settling in the crew. That is quite a task. We'll leave it just a little bit longer because for them to see it at this stage of its development may be a bit unsettling," said Mr Portsmouth.
Pictured: Karen Blanchford (centre, left) and Richard Portsmouth (centre, right) working with crew members following their recent appointment.
GROW's fundraisers for the redevelopment have included patrons Guy and Julia Hands and dozens of businesses and members of the public.
"Support from the community is off the map. It is extraordinary," said Ms Blanchford.
"However, we really need to emphasise that our ongoing costs are high. The £3m for the redevelopment has been phenomenal, but we have ongoing costs going up with more staff, more crew, more lighting, etc. That's a real challenge and it's going to be a tough couple of years on that front.
"But we want our numbers to grow. That is part of the development project. And we want to get more people into employment."
Pictured: The Lieutenant Governor spent around two hours with GROW and hopes to return when the crew moves to the redeveloped site next summer.
Pictured (top): Credit: Chris George.
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