A GREEN oasis for young volunteers – dubbed “the Garden of Dreams” – has been trashed three times in as many days, leaving a charity thousands of pounds out of pocket.
The garden at Sunderland Carers’ Centre in Southwick was created with the help of TV’s Flowerpot Gang 18 months ago, as a place for young carers to enjoy some respite away from their responsibilities at home.
BBC1 presenters Anneka Rice and Phil Tufnell and garden designer Joe Swift transformed the neglected grounds into an oasis of calm, where the youngsters, who all care for a loved one, can go to relax and enjoy themselves.
Now vandals have struck at the Thompson Road centre, systematically returning day after day to wreck the timber fence, taking away yet more of it each time.
Young carers’ development worker Claire Alderson who, along with hundreds of volunteers, spent a week helping the TV team create the garden, said: “The garden was set up by young carers and they called it the Garden of Dreams, where they could have time out from their family situation, to relax and enjoy themselves. To see it destroyed is just absolutely devastating.”
Staff first discovered the damage to the fence on Friday, repairing it at a cost of £200.
But over the next few days, the vandals returned on two more occasions, causing more and more damage each time.
“It’s the third incident we’ve had in just three days, and this is by far the worst,” chief executive officer Graham Burt said.
Mr Burt estimates that it could cost another £1,000 or more to repair, and the centre, a registered charity, also faces spending another £2,000 it can ill afford, on CCTV equipment to prevent vandals striking in the future.
“We have only been here a year and a half,” Mr Burt said. “It’s a fantastic place where carers can come and have a bit of an oasis of calm.
“We are now having to put CCTV cameras up and it takes some of that ethos away from it really.
“The garden itself was designed by a team of young carers, aged between five and 25, who care for family members or siblings and we have a group of garden volunteers, who come in regularly to look after the garden. They are all absolutely devastated.
“It’s just mindless damage to a fence that has no real value to anyone but us, it’s not of any use to anybody else.
“I feel really, really angry. It’s affected everybody, the board, the carers and staff, everyone is so disappointed.”
Neighbourhood Sergeant Dave Cole said: “We’re carrying out inquiries after the fence was damaged and stolen from Sunderland Carers Centre and would urge anyone with any information to contact police.
“If anyone has seen anyone acting suspiciously or anything out of the ordinary in the area, we want to hear from them.”
Anyone with information should contact Northumbria Police on 101 ext 69191 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.