Ferring Country Centre expands with new café

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TUCKED away in the corner of Ferring, a country centre is working to break down the barriers between the general public and people with special needs.

TUCKED away in the corner of Ferring, a country centre is working to break down the barriers between the general public and people with special needs.

Ferring Country Centre is an independent charity which provides work and life experience for people with learning difficulties. Known by the centre as “clients”, these members of the community develop work and social skills by assisting the volunteers in operating the riding therapy unit, garden centre, canteen and small animal farm at the centre in Rife Way.

The latest development at the centre is the new Rangers café. The café will be staffed and run by clients, and volunteers hope it will further develop the work to break down the barriers surrounding special needs.

Steve Burt has been a volunteer at the Ferring Country Centre for the best part of 12 years. He said the centre is a fantastic opportunity for the clients.

Skills for life

“The clients really learn skills for life,” he said. “We have recently been learning basic waitering skills. As a volunteer it is incredibly rewarding. They are enthusiastic and hard working, and are never slow to be appreciative.

“When I was younger, I admit, I was almost scared of people with special needs or disabilities. I think it is a good thing the public get to interact with the clients. It breaks down any preconceptions they may have, and realise they how brilliant they are.”

Ferring Country Centre was established in 1986 by a small group of parents who saw the need for an active workplace setting. The centre’s main aim was, and still is today, to provide vulnerable young adults the opportunity of social inclusion within the community and to play a valued role in society.

General manager Lynda Vowels said: “We have clients from all over the county, as well as from nearby places such as Lancing and Shoreham. Some people come from as far as Horsham. We do not discriminate against any disability or situation, and while we provide a safe environment for these people to develop life skills, we also find working with animals and plants provides a form of therapy.”

Open weekend

Clients are currently beavering away in the garden centre, as they prepare for the annual open weekend and plant sale, scheduled for May 12 and 13. The garden centre grows and sells a wide range of plants, vegetables and planters, at competitive prices. Horticultural manager, Malcolm Linfield, said the garden centre follows the structure of any other horticultural business.

“We work on a commercial basis, so this is very much like any other business,” he said. “We are trying to give real-life experience here, and we always strive to put out top-quality produce. We always try to put out the same, if not better, as our competitors.”

Joshua Sage, 18, is a client at the centre.

He said: “I like coming here every day, everyone is really nice. They make me laugh. I’m looking forward to working in the new café.”