‘Trust instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Over the past eight months, I have received some quite amusing looks when explaining to people what Furry Tales is. To me, it makes perfect sense to take bantam chickens and guinea pigs into residential homes and day care centres, to invite groups of older people to the East End haven that is Stepney City Farm, and to enjoy sharing laughter and memories prompted by an array of our furry/feathered friends. I do accept, however, that not everyone sees it like this.
‘Older people? And chickens??’
‘Why farm animals? And why residential homes?’
‘How did you end up doing that then?’
Trying to provide satisfactory answers to these questions has been an extremely useful process for me if, at times, a little frustrating. I became aware that I hadn’t decided to start this project because of logical reasons. I didn’t sit down with a list of potential needs of the varying demographics of Tower Hamlets and try to see what I could do. I just had a feeling.
Having been involved with various other voluntary organisations, often with the intent of gaining professional skills, relevant experience, or potentially useful work contacts, I was keen to do something just for the sheer joy of it – with no ulterior motives. I knew that spending time outdoors and with animals made me feel happy, so I started doing it more. From this came a feeling that perhaps there were others who would benefit in the same way I was, along with an awareness that there were some people who had no access to the farm, or no knowledge of its existence. And from this, came Furry Tales.
Eight months down the line, it is an utter joy to see the project growing and developing with a force of its own. I feel as if I spent the winter months planting seeds and became so engrossed in the process that I forgot what they might turn into. Now, as if from nowhere, all these flowers are beginning to blossom and I find myself marvelling at their appearance.
In July I was invited to pitch Furry Tales to UnLtd, an organisation that supports social enterprise start ups through a range of awards. In ten minutes I had to explain what the project was, why there was a need for it, and why I deserved their support. It was nerve-wracking and empowering at the same time – I loved every minute of it.
By the end of July I received the news that Furry Tales had been awarded a Millennium Do It Award: a package of £4,000 to put towards set up costs, and a year-long combination of legal, business and networking support. I couldn’t quite believe it.
I am now in the process of gearing up for the official Year One Pilot. I am commissioning a website, expanding our network of contacts, reaching out to local government for their support, looking for training opportunities, and recruiting volunteers for sessions that are due to start in October. It is slightly daunting if I am completely honest, but it is also immensely exciting, and I feel more than ready for the challenge.
I have a long way to go with Furry Tales, but it has had an excellent start and I am looking forward to seeing the direction it takes. What the process so far has shown me is the huge reward that comes from following your passions and listening to your instinct – even when you can’t always provide a reason.
If you are interested in volunteering for Furry Tales, have any questions about the project, or just feel like saying hello, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
For more about the practicalities of the project, please visit Stepney City Farm’s website: http://stepneycityfarm.org/support-us/furry-tales/
For more information on the support UnLtd offers, visit: http://unltd.org.uk/path/