Portsmouth nursery at the Roberts Centregives the city's children their first experience with farmyard animals
A NURSERY and homeless families support centre has given children the chance to see farmyard animals for the first time thanks to group of furry and feathered visitors.
The Roberts Centre, in Crasswell Street, has hosted chickens, goats, alpacas, and guinea pigs from Hamphire-based Mucky Bucket Farm, giving children their first hands-on experience with farm animals.
More than 80 children and their families turned out to spend the day with the animals, which made ‘a big difference’ to those from some of the most deprived parts of the city, according to Carole Damper, the chief executive of the Roberts Centre.
Carole, who has worked at the nursery and homeless family support centre for more than 24 years, said: ‘The most awe-struck moment was when the children saw the alpacas for the first time.
‘It really does make a big difference – most of our families don’t have cars, and public transport can be quite expensive, so the chances for those children seeing live animals is pretty remote.
‘The same supporter has supported us to have the farm visit every year, for the last 15 years. Every year, I write to them and every year they say yes. It’s a hugely generous donation.’
The day was an ‘amazing’ experience for Sophie James’ two children, aged three and four, who attend the centre’s nursery and live near Commerical Road in the city centre.
The 26-year-old said: ‘It was so, so nice. We moved here two years ago from Birmingham, and there were no farms near where we used to live, so it was amazing to give the kids that kind of experience.
‘They loved it – with Covid it’s been difficult to give them this kind of hands-on experience.
‘For my four-year-old, he really liked the goats – now I’ve got them asking for us to get goats and alpacas, which isn’t going to happen in a four bed flat.’
The travelling farm visit follows an increase in referrals to the centre’s homeless family support services during the last 18-months, according to centre boss Carole.
She said: ‘Like many homeless organisations, we have had an expanded need over the last year and a half.
‘We are just trying to keep people going – it has been such a difficult time.
‘We have worked with more than 250 children over the last year. Normally, it’s about 200.’