Prince's Trust Team Seven Diary
A diary recording the progress of the Prince's Trust Abingdon team 2011 - Jake Piggott
Week 1 – Meeting The Team
Let me start by saying that before this experience, I had considered myself a rather shy, reserved, introverted and dare I say anti-social individual, not anti-social in the sense that I was a trouble making reprobate with no consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others (quite the opposite in fact), but in the sense that I generally avoided social situations due to not really being mister popular and having a strong tendency to embarrass myself in the company of others by blurting out random and nonsensical conversation. As you can imagine, being put in a room full of complete strangers, I was most certainly out of my comfort zone.
With the above assumption of myself being put to the test, I was quick to discover that the assumption in question was not as bad as I had initially thought as it seemed within minutes of everybody arriving that I was happily nattering away to the other team members with no niggling voice in my head telling me to shut up. This was mostly down to us delving straight into ice breakers and team building exercises such as building towers out of newspaper and tape, games that involved a great deal of communication and various puzzle solving activities. Not exactly something I’d have chosen to do but I have to say it worked, the team was successfully built with a rather family-like kind of relationship with one another.
I guess it goes to show that there is always a way to tackle life’s little problems, even the ones in your head and this week alone has been a very large confidence booster, I’d even found myself joking around with complete strangers outside of the team as well, which had previously been completely unlike myself, I could see a new part of myself sprouting from the oddly arranged flower bed that is my psyche, and I’ve decided to tend to this sprout to see what it grows into.
Week 2 – If You Go Down To The Woods Today...
With the foundations laid and the structure that is the team beginning to take shape, it’s time to put on our hardhats and finish building this bad boy! Residential had begun.
The team spent an entire week in each other’s company, out in the middle of The New Forest cooking, cleaning and working as a team (and thankfully, nobody developed cabin fever) It really was a lovely setting, vast areas of woodland that were covered in wildlife and plant life, we were staying in a building right in the middle of it and were given free reign of the area (When not doing tasks of course), I did get the chance to take myself on a few jolly wanders in the mornings where I was both fascinated and enchanted by the forest atmosphere. Living in the middle of a city like Oxford, though it does have woodland of its own, it’s very rare I get to experience such a setting.
Naturally, given the role of the team blogger, I did bring a notepad and stationary with me to take down notes and notes were written, however the majority of the notepad was taken up by drawings and possible concepts for short stories; the forest seemed to fuel my inspiration in a way I could never have imagined.
The team was split into three groups, we gave the groups rather silly names so don’t say I didn’t warn you, reader. There was Team Sesame Street, Team Winning (Who only lived up to that name once, I shall painfully remind them) and Team No Horses, Nigel picked the name due to his horse phobia, I shall mention that shortly as a marvellous thing happened in regard to that. Each group took turns in the cooking, cleaning and preparing the tables and to our surprise, we all took on tasks in an organized and timely fashion, another example of the team programme working it’s magic.
The activities, led by a brilliant instructor named Elaine, were a combination of fun, frustrating, adventurous, challenging and puzzling which got us all working together and strengthened the bonds within the team. There was rock climbing which challenged my fear of heights to the max, sadly I looked down and saw how high up I was, then started to feel a panic attack coming on so had to get down swiftly (which ended with me landing on my behind), I can safely say I’m never being strapped to a bungee cord ever again in my life, nor am I ever climbing higher than my limit again, though it was still a worthwhile experience. Everybody else had no issue with climbing it, most of them made it to the top.
Another activity was a crate stacking challenge; I chose to sit this one out after still feeling rather traumatized from the rock climbing the day before and having no desire to strap myself up to one of those contraptions again, however it did look like a fun experience, most stated it was their favourite activity so I guess you could say I missed out on that one due to my own irrational fear. We even got Tom up on the crates and were all tempted to knock them down purposefully, but he had his iPhone up with him so we didn’t want to be responsible for that breaking.
The site had a small army-style obstacle course as well, which we had a quick go on and for the most part it was fairly easy, until getting to the sections like the monkey bars in which we had to support our own body weight and travel about four metres, it’s a lot harder than it sounds let me tell you.
Also on the activity front was Archery (my personal favourite of the activities because it seemed to fit the setting quite nicely for a fantasy fiction nut like myself) many of us had never held a bow before so this was a new experience, some of us picked it up instantly and were making perfect shots, others started out a little wobbly but we all seemed to get the hang of it by the end.
That was about it for the more physical activities, but there were also the fun little things such as walking around the forest in the dark, it was at this point when we encountered the infamous wild horses up close and personal, as mentioned before, Nigel initially had a strong phobia of these free-roaming equines and was hiding behind the group whenever one came into view, though after an hour or so of seeing them regularly he seemed to calm down and actually got a little closer to them himself. I think it’s safe to say that Nigel overcame his fear of horses to some degree, he still may not like them as much, but he certainly wasn’t terrified of them any longer, which was a very worthwhile thing to take home from the week.
We had various team challenges, similar to the previous week, such as building rockets out of recycled materials and seeing which one could launch the highest, a game in which we were all tied to a small hoop that balanced a tennis ball and had to work as one to get it from A to B without it dropping on the floor, building sturdy structures using only wooden poles and rope and much more.
Our free time was generally spend socializing and having fun, also taking a shockingly accurate psychological personality test from Elaine, seriously the results of the test got me down to the letter, it was rather scary.
As mentioned earlier, a lot of my free time was spent exploring with a pad of paper and pen in hand, jotting down notes and doodling contentedly. Strange how I seemed to feel more at peace when in the middle of nowhere than I do when at home. I must say though, I was developing internet withdrawal symptoms by the end of the week, curse you technology. Curse you and your effect on my fragile little mind (Says the man currently typing this up on a computer).
Week 3 – 6 - Back To Reality
As tranquil and charming as I found our week in the New forest and as much as I wanted to stay there just a little longer, it was nice to be back in Oxford... Oh wait... We’ve moved to Abingdon now? Well there’s a nice change. Yes the base we had for the first week in Oxford was only a temporary one, Team 7 are now based in Abingdon, I don’t really mind so much, it’s nice to have a change of location, regardless of the fact that Abingdon hasn’t much to offer in the way of shopping or entertaining yourself, it does have its own quirkiness to it, and being somebody that spent the first nine years of their life in Wallingford and having visited Abingdon frequently back then, it’s a rather nostalgic feeling to be in one of my old trekking grounds (the parts I actually remember of course, which only really consisted of the areas in and around the high street and even then my memory was somewhat clouded).
Weeks three through to six is the Community Project part of the programme, in which the team works together to raise funds for and partake in a project to benefit a section of the local community that is in need of some aid. After researching, writing lots of letters, emails and making a lot of phone calls we found ourselves ending up promising a community project to not one but two places in Abingdon. The first was St John’s Care Home in the Old Station House, they needed their garden tidied up and cleared of litter. The second was the South Abingdon Children’s Centre, which needed their play area to be brightened up a little.
The fundraising came next; the team went for the old fashioned but effective method of walking through the town centre with collection boxes, getting donations from the community, all funds from which would go towards the projects and materials needed to undertake them.
Clearing Up The Gardens
We didn’t really require much in the way of funds for St John’s Care Home as most of us had gardening equipment we were happy to bring in from home; the caretaker was also very helpful and kind enough to lend us his hedge cutter.
I started out on litter picking duty and I have to say that amongst the beer cans and discarded burger boxes, I found some pretty crazy things in those hedges, some of them down right unpleasant, I shan’t go into great detail because I’d like to keep this diary safe for work (as well as safe for the age range this website is targeted at) but I think you can get the gist of what I’m on about here. The end result of St. John’s Care home was a tidy and clean garden surrounding it, certainly a damn sight better than the overgrown jungle that harboured several years’ worth of sordid drunken tales from the locals within them, I’m sure the residents and staff were glad to see the place as it was intended to look after a while of it being the way it was.
With one of our two Community Projects out of the way we were beginning to plan for our second, gathering supplies and making rough sketches of what we intended to do. The Children’s Centre had requested a sound wall and a water wall for their outdoor play area, it seemed a little odd for them to request an outdoor water play area for the children at this time of year and I was certain that they would regret the sound wall idea after hearing all the noise it would be bound to create, but if that’s what they requested then that is what they shall have.
Getting Wet And Making Noise
After the planning and collecting was over and done with we got both boards into the base and were ready to get stuck in to painting them. The water wall; though originally intended to be blue, somehow ended up being a pastel lilac colour, regardless of whether or not it fitted the theme it still looked rather nice and I was sure that once we fitted everything onto it, we would have a fully functioning and eye-catching water feature going on with it.
As for the sound wall, we decided to go all out, mix all our primary colours up and make it a full on rainbow, it looked brilliant, a mixture of every colour we could make and then some, the glossy paint made it shine in the sunlight and I was certain that this would shine beautifully in the summer months (Provided these children don’t get overly destructive with it)
On the Friday (Which was actually the deadline for this, work experience placements were to come the following week) I had to leave early for a job centre appointment, however the water wall was near completion, all we needed was fixed onto it and fully functioning, we got very wet when experimenting with the different ways to make the water flow, our inner children shone through with the delight of getting to play around with water toys.
The sound wall however, was still slightly wet from our crazy rainbow and didn’t look like it would be drying anytime soon. We shall probably have to work a little over the deadline to finish it off once we return from our work experience placements on week 9.
It's strange to think that half of the team programme is already over, the time seems to just fly by when with the team, even when we aren't exactly doing the most thrilling of tasks.
To summarise the community project section of the team programme, it is a challenge but a challenge worth taking part in and one that will leave you with a strong sense of accomplishment. The organization and planning were the most vital aspects, I think we may have set ourselves a little more to do than we had time for but I suppose if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. I will say this though; if I ever see a pot of gloss paint again it will be too soon!