We’re firm believers that the outdoors is good for the soul. And that’s what Paul Connaughton thinks too. He’s the Founder and Chair of Trustees of JPC Community Farm.
At their home in Stokesley, North Yorkshire, Paul and his wife Julie have converted a grade 2 listed, 23.5 acre farm into a haven for young adults with disabilities and their families. It brings together people of all ages to support groups of people who have faced considerable adversity, isolation, stress, and anxiety. This wonderful farm now has eleven supported living homes, six respite apartments, two day-care rooms, an independence hub, and a café. To help run the farm, Paul and Julie employ staff with special needs as well as providing a supported apprenticeship and internship program. Paul and Julie are remarkable.
For them, their motivation is truly personal. Paul had a whirlwind few years. He joined the police in 1984 then met Julie, the love of his life. They got married and soon had their daughter, Abbi, in 1993. His son, James, was born in 2000 with considerable breathing difficulties and suffered severe brain damage, subsequently being diagnosed with Hypotonic Cerebral Palsy. He and Julie knew the biggest challenge of their lives was ahead of them.
They were determined not to let James’s disability stop them from having quality time as a family. Paul believes that the outdoors is a powerful environment to provide engaging activities. He and Julie wanted to leave a legacy behind. That’s why they created JPC Community Farm – for James, for others.
Paul holds the service to a high standard – if it wouldn’t be good enough for James, it’s not good enough.
Paul has recently added a therapy garden and a small care farm where they look after animals. After it was completed, it was clear that they needed warm, functional clothing for the farm. Alpkit Foundation has provided weatherproof clothing for people to wear when they work outside, no matter the weather.
Looking to introduce further outdoor experiences such as overnight camps, it’s having huge impacts on young adults lives, supporting them in making a positive transition to adulthood and to live as happily and independently as possible.