Lauren Shand is the Chief Executive of the Green Light Trust, a charity dedicated to transforming lives through the power of nature. In the light of a major funding boost towards completion of a unique new learning centre, she explains how it will help hundreds of people
I have spent most of my life in Suffolk and very proud to live and work here. Currently serving as the interim Chief Executive at Green Light Trust since September, I previously held the position of Operations Director, a role I assumed in April 2021.
My routine is wonderfully diverse – which I love. Day-to-day activities encompass engaging discussions with commissioners and partners, meticulous report writing, and getting out with the teams in our scenic woodlands across Suffolk and Norfolk. No two days are the same and I love both the opportunities and challenges that are presented. Don’t get me wrong, there are tough moments but hearing the incredible stories about lives changed through the work of our amazing teams, is what spurs me and the team to do more.
Over the past 12 years, I have dedicated my career to fostering meaningful outcomes for both individuals and communities. Beginning in the Welfare to Work sector, I focused on guiding individuals towards sustainable employment and valuable volunteering opportunities.
In my recent role in the public sector, I took on the responsibility of managing a dynamic team of community development officers. These professionals, with diverse specialisms, collaborated with communities of interest and place. My particular focus was on health, wellbeing, and vulnerability, advocating for the voluntary sector and community voice in the broader health conversation.
My journey has been enriched by collaboration with a wide array of communities and partners, delivering impactful projects that resonate with shared values. I really do believe that remarkable outcomes unfold when people come together to connect, learn, and actively participate in a community. It’s not always easy and sometimes takes longer, but worth the investment for sure!
I am passionate about levelling the playing field and this really starts from home. I have an incredible brother, who faces distinct challenges due to his disability and learning needs. We live in a world where it can be tough for anyone who is seen as different or doesn’t fit the societal norm and I have witnessed those challenges for my own family. There simply isn’t enough support and there are not enough opportunities that enable all people to feel valued and contribute towards something purposeful and meaningful. Green Light Trust meets that need for people, providing purposeful activity, that supports people’s development no matter what an individual’s ability, need or situation. That’s what makes me so passionate about what we do at Green Light Trust and working with partners who have the same ethos. We have to be creative, due to the economic challenges faced by the sector, but people always come first! Let’s be frank – we all need to feel part of community and want to contribute to things of value.
Green Light Trust stands as a beacon of transformative change. We utilise nature as a powerful medium to engage with individuals facing life’s challenges, fostering a safe, welcoming, and non-judgmental environment. Here, people can connect with nature, each other, and take essential time for themselves. At the same time, we also support the natural environments we work from, bringing areas of woodland back into management, increasing biodiversity and creating new habits. Our commitment lies in providing person-centred support, complemented by wrap-around assistance from our dedicated Participant Engagement Coordinators. We meet individuals where they are at, working alongside them to cultivate confidence, self-esteem, and resilience. For children and young people, our focus extends to moderating behaviours and exploring through play.
We have five core pathways across Suffolk and Norfolk. These pathways encompass work with children, young people, and adults, including our Step By Step service tailored for adults with additional needs. We also run wellbeing and team days for businesses and other organisations and the income from these is reinvested into our charitable activities.
At the heart of it all, Green Light Trust is positioned at the intersection of health, education, and social care services. The tangible impact of our efforts is reflected in life-changing outcomes.
Green Light Trust is not just an organisation; it’s a catalyst for growth, healing, and rediscovery. I always talk about environment twofold – yes, there are immense benefits from being in nature, but the second part is the environment the team creates for our participants. This is where we really see the change happening for people. I am incredibly proud of the work our teams do – it’s not an easy job.
We are thrilled to share exciting news about our upcoming project at Castan Wood – a state-of-the-art Learning Centre set to revolutionise our services in Suffolk. This expansion aims to address the needs of children, young people, and adults with complex health and learning disabilities, ensuring they can fully engage in our woodland activities. The design of the building aligns seamlessly with our charity’s ethos, emphasizing carbon-negative principles and employing the most appropriate construction materials and techniques.
Key benefits of the building:
Service Expansion: Building on the success of our Step-by-Step model at the Lawshall site, we aim to replicate this, offering tailored services for young people and adults with complex health and learning disabilities.
Job Creation: This expansion brings not just enhanced services but also additional employment opportunities. Creating jobs within Green Light Trust in East Suffolk is a crucial part of our commitment to community growth.
Educational Space: The Learning Centre will serve as a dedicated educational space for children and young people with Education Health & Care Plans. Through our support, several of them will be empowered to join the workforce, contributing to a more inclusive society.
Enhanced Vocational Training: Existing participants in our programs will benefit from additional provisions, improving their vocational training opportunities. This includes support for online training at our site, broadening their skill sets.
Looking Ahead – Phase 2:
As we embark on the next phase of this transformative project, we are actively seeking support to bring our vision to fruition. Although we have received fantastic grant support to help complete the build, your donation can still make a significant impact; if you’d like to contribute, please click here.
Alternatively, if you have other means of support in mind, we welcome you to reach out directly. We are also appealing to suppliers who might support with elements of the build and help us reduce costs and achieve our goals in other ways. Together, let’s build a more accessible, sustainable, and inclusive future at Castan Wood. With thanks to Suffolk County Council, East Suffolk Council and the Suffolk Growth Partnership for their investment to date and all those who have donated and supported the project.
We also run Team days for businesses and other organisations, to support employee wellbeing or help with team development. Not only do teams get a day of fun out of the office and in the woods, but you also contribute towards services for individuals within your communities that need it the most, as the charge for these is reinvested into our charity and our work to support people and the environment. To find out more and book your slot for the spring and summer please email firstname.lastname@example.org. These days get booked up quickly, so don’t miss out!
We plan to develop our Natural Alternative pathway in Norfolk from 2024, which is a pathway designed for children and young people from primary age and above, that may be struggling in mainstream education, providing the perfect space for personal growth. We take learners from their ‘normal’ environment with their usual environmental cues and introduce them to a woodland space, where they can start to develop positive change patterns of behaviour and start to identify with that way of being. This is a pathway of support we successfully support across Suffolk, and we would love to achieve these outcomes for children and young people in Norfolk also. To enquire about a space on a natural alternative provision please click here. We are also aiming to expand our Team Day offer too – for more information on these please click here.
Support from the public through donations can make a huge difference to the work we do and helping us reach those that need our support across Norfolk and Suffolk. If you would like to become a supporter of Green Light Trust by giving a one-off donation, a regular donation, or fundraise for us – please click here . You can also follow us on our socials to keep in touch and hear more about what we’re up to and the impact we’re having.
To access the services of Green Light Trust: if you are an adult, click Adult Pathways; if you are a young person, or interested on behalf of a young person, click Children & Young People. Also, visit Development Days for Businesses and Castan Appeal. Email email@example.com. Follow Green Light Trust on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. East Suffolk Council has committed £110,000 of grant funding towards the Green Light Trust’s vision to provide health and wellbeing programmes from the new building at Castan Wood, in Martlesham, for children, young people and adults with complex needs.