A BLOOMING lovely garden is bringing smiles to the faces of young carers.
The Carers’ Centre, in Southwick, featured on BBC1’s The Flowerpot Gang last week after being transformed by green-fingered presenters Anneka Rice, Phil Tufnell and garden designer Joe Swift.
They enlisted the help of local volunteers to give the land at the centre in Thompson Park a mammoth makeover.
It now boasts a fire pit and barbecue for teenage young carers, Hobbiton-style grassy mounds, art works, climbing frames and more.
Staff at the centre say the garden has given the young carers a huge boost.
Sue Callaghan said: “The publicity the show has given us means that we have had loads of phone calls from other agencies offering young carers opportunities and we are now looking into some of them going to Africa next year.
“It has also given them so much confidence. Some of those who were involved realised what it was like to be part of a community project in which everyone pulls together and they’ve started to do community courses.”
More than 100 volunteers including representatives from City of Sunderland College, the RNLI lifeboat crew, lifeguards, Salvation Army and the Friends of Thompson Park rolled up their sleeves to dig in and create the “garden of dreams” after the show put out a call for help.
Presenter Anneka Rice helped the young carers to create giant flower artworks for the garden whereas the older ones worked with Joe Swift to create a graffiti walkway.
The centre hosted an open day to celebrate the garden and moving to the new premises five months ago from the old base in Toward Road.
Young carer Rachael Chapman, 18, from Pallion was one of those featured in the TV show. The St Robert of Newminster pupil cares for her mum Theresa Jefferson who has a rare blood disorder.
She said: “We really enjoyed being part of the show, all the presenters were really canny and we were really shocked at how many people came along to help us.
“It’s great having our own space where we can come and hang out with our friends.”
Robert Shevlin, 20, from Pennywell, helps care for his brother Niall, 13, who has autism.
“It was a lot of fun and gave us something to do in the school holidays,” he said. “The barbecue area and the table tennis are my favourite bits.”
•If you are a carer and want to know more about the services Sunderland Carers’ Centre can offer, phone 549 3768 or visit www.sunderlandcarers.co.uk.