Friday, 18 July 2008

Kingdom seeking

Finding a replica Iron Age round house near Louth is striking, but it isn’t the most striking things about the Lincolnshire Rural Activities Centre (LRAC). The most striking things are the sheer number of students with learning difficulties or coming with no qualifications and the level of their achievements. I was able to say so when I gave out some of the certificates at the annual awards celebration there on Wednesday.

It is on a site let from the County Council where the Lincolnshire Wolds begins to rise, so the top of the site has splendid views across the coastal plain to the North Sea; the sweep of the view brings home how many wind farm sites have been developed.

Individual efforts at fund raising led to a Riding for the Disabled centre being established there, around which the wider LRAC charity was then developed. The charity began to work in partnership with the Grimsby Institute of FE and HE (GIFHE) and in due course GIFHE has taken on the work on the charity’s behalf.

I was there as Vice Chair of the GIFHE governing body alongside the Chair of the LRAC trustees. Some of those receiving certificates almost danced up to do so. Achievements in animal care, catering, conservation, E2E (Entry to Employment), horticulture and life skills were all being celebrated; much of the training in these areas is in live situations including providing the meals at lunchtime and developing the site itself.

Also being marked was Celia Lowden’s retirement after 34 years on the GIFHE staff. She told me that a little way through her time she became aware of the issue of dyslexia, helped one student (‘in a cupboard because she didn’t want others to know she had any special needs’) and ended up founding, running and expanding a whole study support department. Supporting developments at LRAC over the last seven years has been just part of that ever widening work.

It is rare to find Kingdom values so consistently tripped over, sought for and lived out, and I didn’t have to go anywhere near a church to find it so.

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