By Jenny Quinlan

The story of our weirdly wonderful philanthropic business model started with 1 child.  My youngest daughter, Evan.

After purchasing a smallholding in March 2021 (during lockdown number 3…) and enjoying a few months of all the extra outdoor space, planting trees, growing (and killing..) lots of vegetable plants, trying (and failing numerous times) to carry out ‘farm diy’, as well as growing a whole menagerie of animals, I saw what a transformation this place had on Evan, when she was in that outdoor environment.

As a little 8 year old girl, Evan had faced many challenges at school.  Teachers not understanding her behaviour, children not wanting to play with her or calling her horrid names.  Classwork being too boring or difficult to focus on.  To most people, they would see Evan as a disruptive child, never sitting still, very competitive, enjoying rough play, supremely forgetful, usually distracted, easily frustrated, complacent, messy and sometimes even aggressive.

Only one person at school saw Evan for who she actually was, her amazing class teacher – Mrs McKay.

In reality, Evan is one of the most kind hearted, empathetic, generous, determined, thoughtful, loving, funny, inquisitive, energetic, joyful 8 year olds you could ever meet.

When she’s not in a classroom.

When she’s on the farm, she’s free.  She can run til her legs feel like jelly, climb up trees and over log piles, build dens, talk to the animals, sing as loud as she wants, chase butterflies and get filthy dirty.  She can be a child.

She doesn’t have to sit still, or be quiet, or wait til the appropriate time to ask a question that she’s then likely forgotten.  She doesn’t have to play gently or speak softly and she isn’t forced to be around people that aren’t kind to her.

She makes no apologies for who she is, and my one wish is that she always carries that fire within her, no matter how many people she encounters that try their damnedest to dampen it.

But what does this have to do with an interior design business?  Bear with me, we’re getting to that – but to understand it, you need to know the whole story.

In the summer of 2021, one of my friends suggested on a bit of a whim that we should put a few bell tents in the paddock and run a pop up glam-site for the summer, whilst the majority of flights abroad were still grounded due to covid.  On a bit of a whim, we did, and it was a huge success.

Every single family that stayed with us gave us glowing 5 star reviews.  But not due to the luxuriousness of the glampsite (the tents are lovely, but the communal facilities are basic and there’s zero wifi).  The positive reviews were things like, “the children didn’t ask for their tablet all weekend.”  Or, “Our kids didn’t argue the whole time we were there.”  Or my heartfelt favourite, “The farm is our favourite place in the world, it feels like home, the children cried when we left and we can’t wait to come back.”

Seeing the positive impact that our little farm had on the children (and parents) that visited – I started to wonder if there was a way of impacting more children, but specifically those children that really needed to feel free.  Like Evan.

After many evenings searching the internet, I came across a wonderful organisation called ‘Social Farms and Gardens’, whose vision and mission statements embodied everything I was looking for:

Our vision – people and communities reaching their full potential through nature-based activities as a part of everyday life.

Our mission – to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and the environment through nature-based activities

As a result of joining this organisation, over the next 6 months I undertook child protection and safeguarding training, emergency first aid and a care farming for mental health certification.  I then spent 8 weeks on the CEVAS training course with a group of wonderful farmers from across the UK

But why?

Everything within our world moves in cycles.  The economy, production and destruction of materials, trends, history and even generational traumas.  The cycle I am most interested in disrupting, is the following;

  • 70% of all inmates in prisons come from an unstable home/school life (regardless of socioeconomic status).
  • Those inmates were once children.  Usually the ‘naughty’ ones at school.
  • These children are failed by the system and made to feel like they don’t belong, they’re worthless, troublesome and don’t have a place in society.
  • Nowadays these children spend too much time on screens (because it’s convenient for the parents/teachers who don’t know how to deal with challenging behaviour) and have no regular access to nature, outdoor space and the companionship of animals.
  • These children grow up to become disruptive teenagers with challenging behaviour.
  • These teenagers grow up to become volatile adults, who don’t value their environments or the communities they live in.
  • Housing markets are impacted by higher crime rates.
  • Communities suffer, creating an even wider social divide.

So how does care farming help to break the cycle in children and young people?

  • Engage them in activities they may not have done before.
  • Nurture their natural inquisitive nature and allow them to discover what they’re interested in.
  • Give them the opportunity to challenge themselves and their beliefs without judgement.
  • Allow them to enjoy life’s simple pleasures without them having the ‘achieve’ or ‘earn’ it.
  • Guide their attention to nature and how to respect our natural world and care for the environment.
  • Encourage them to move their bodies and use their energy to accomplish something tangible. 
  • Develop new skills they may not have had the opportunity to try.

After running sessions on the farm for children who are struggling in a mainstream school environment since 2021, I can tell you first hand what a difference it makes to their wellbeing, self worth and behaviour.   The hope is, that by continuing our work on the farm as well as investing in other local organisations that support children and teens, we can have a positive impact in our local communities and not only will these children benefit, but the community as a whole will as well.

Home is a feeling, not a place.

It comes as no surprise that by providing a high end service of interior design, the majority of our clients are financially quite wealthy.  Many of them are great philanthropists and given the opportunity to help their local communities would do so in a heartbeat.  However, the burden of financial wealth is that you’re expected to help everybody, all of the time, which is an impossible task.  Our objective at Studio JQ is to unify communities, creating a safer and more stable environment for everyone to live in and flourish.  Our clients remain anonymous so as to protect their privacy, whilst giving back to their neighbourhoods in the process.

The children of today are our communities of tomorrow. 

If you run a local non-profit that supports children and young people in their development and would like to discuss partnering on our outreach programme, please get in touch here.

“They caught all the wild children,

And put them in zoos,

They made them do sums

And wear sensible shoes.

They put them to bed

At the wrong time of day,

And made them sit still

When they wanted to play.

They scrubbed them with soap

And they made them eat peas.

They made them behave

And say pardon and please.

They took all their wisdom

And wildness away.


That’s why there are none

In the forests today.”

by Jeanne Willis

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