We’d like to update you on the Rooting in Tooting project: TTT’s joint project with the Tooting charity CARAS (Community Action for Refugees and Asylum-Seekers).

In our past blog posts (view them here) we’ve outlined that we have a year of diverse activities planned with CARAS.

Participant groups include the CARAS Youth Club and After-School Club, with families and the Women’s Group still to come.

The project purpose?
Threefold – to help develop teamworking and relationships while enjoying new activities, to help develop language and communication skills, and to help participants feel that they are joining in with the local community.
We’re so proud that CARAS won a Team Community Hero award at the Balham and Tooting Community Association annual celebration of local contributions on December 10th.

Working with the Youth Club
This is the group with whom we did the pilot project in spring – and it’s typical of working in the refugee setting that the individuals and participant numbers have been changing all the time.

In one session we were making models of the rain-fed growing planters that we hope to build for real outdoors – a fun and focused session with a dozen young people.

In another session two dozen young people carved pumpkins, and in another we did more screenprinting using local photos of Tooting scenes. That day one or two lads were on still in their first few days in England…others translated and helped them join in.

What else?
We’ve embarked on measuring and preparing timber for some of the outdoor planter construction projects that will turn into flourishing gardens in the spring.

In December we did a mighty evening session printing 70 cloth bags with nearly 30 young people and volunters, again using local leaves as stencils.  These bags went home as presents over the holiday season, and many others were exchanged for a donation to CARAS.

The Youth Club designed and printed many different bags!

Working with the After-School Clubs
In November and December we joined the clubs, in four age groups from 4 to 11 yrs old. We designed and screenprinted cloth bags with each child, using local leaves as the stencils (..’rooting in Tooting’..!)

The children were great – and hats off to their energy to join in until 7:30 on mostly wet Monday evenings after full days at school.

What’s next?
We continue with the plans and preparation for building flower and vegetable beds, and we’re developing a new strand: designing and making a mural for the site. We have the Women’s Group and family groups to meet. We’ll be planting, growing and harvesting with the 2016 Tooting Foodival in mind.
The reality is that our project approach has to be very flexible and responsive…we’re learning about the best approaches, all the time.
In parallel the participants have other activities – for example the Youth Club have support for their college studies and they cook and enjoy meals together. They are taking part in games and training to explore stress, sleeping well, and keeping fit – all those as part of CARAS’ own Happy Future Project.

Who is supporting Rooting in Tooting?
People like you! We’re all keen to learn and contribute to alleviating a global challenge that we can work with on our doorstep – thanks so much to all who have volunteered so far.
In the spirit of flexibility and responding to change, we’re a group of a dozen – some of us do a lot of other things with TTT, some join just this project. We’re never all there at once; some do more time and some do less and we have a mix of skills.
This has worked out well so far – and if you are reading this and feel you would like to contribute, please get in touch with Charles or Jenny by email at transitiontowntooting@gmail.com

We’re very grateful for funding and materials from the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Greening Grey Britain’ campaign and from the Sir Walter St John Educational Charity.
Further support is welcome!
Thanks to all – Charles