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I’m Nicky Bashall and I’ve been working on the Community allotment project Grove Park allotments in South London for three years.
I started off as a volunteer, I’m now the project coordinator, and our project works with clients form Southwark day centre for Asylum Seekers and we meet here every Tuesday morning to grow vegetable and really enjoy being in this beautiful space. I absolutely love it, its great, its one of the highlights of my week being here on a Tuesday, I love it.
What I really feel is important about the project for me is the fact that clients can come here to this lovely space and have a time away from all their difficulties, they can enjoy being in a green environment listening to the birds, chatting and having a laugh with other people or just being quiet and even more importantly than that they feel a sense of contributing, of having a purpose because they are growing vegetables which people are going to eat as part of a lovely lunch back at the day centre and that sense of purpose and meaning is just so important to our clients because Asylum Seekers, most of them, are not allowed to work and are often left in limbo in the Asylum System for years.
We’ve had clients wait for fourteen, sixteen years and its so important for people to have a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives and just being able to come to this space and do something this is enjoyable, meaning something and give something back is so important and for me I feel really lucky to be part of something that gives life and is transformative for people who are in desperate situations very often.
Something else that really great about this project is it gives people a chance to meet other people in the local community, being at the allotments clients can have a change to chat to other allotment holders, share vegetables. A lot of people have given us vegetables and you know likewise we have passed on some of ours and so the exchange gives a really good feeling.
Something we’re really looking forward to is learning how to bee keep alongside other allotment holders. We’ve created a small apiary at the back of it and Grant, the allotment secretary, is going to teach us how to keep bees so really can’t wait for that.
One thing that always brings a smile to my face is remembering the first time a group a women and children came down, it was just so brilliant seeing their enjoyment of this space, but they did enjoy it in away I’m not so sure the mums were expecting. They had a go at watering and watering everything many many times including themselves so by the end of it they were completely soaked, covered in mud and their beautiful cloths were not quite as they started out, so I’m not sure what the mums thought of that but it was a really great day, it was really lovely.
Its also really exciting that out of the allotment project, because of it, we’re been able to raise some money to develop other green activities because the allotment has shown what kind of a need there is, so were able to now start taking people on trips to visit other gardens and other community projects. For example next week we are going to visit Keepers nursery in Kent, to get to taste different apples before we choose trees for a little orchard we are going to create in the garden next door to the allotment.
So there are lots of exciting things coming up and possibilities now we’ve got a bit of funding and its just really a great time to be part of this project.
Nicky is the Project Coordinator for Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers’ Community Allotment Project. CAP is based at Grove Park Allotments, run by Camberwell Gardens Guild, where it began as a collaboration to create a new growing space with clients and volunteers from SDCAS. CAP is also working in partnership with the London Wildlife Trust to develop new projects with clients.