We’re sharing our monthly update about Gardens of Refuge.
Gardens of Refuge is our 2017 partnership project with CARAS and The Grange to provide therapeutic and positive experiences for people of refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds who live in South-West London.
There are four interrelated project strands to share:
> Carpentry project with the Youth Club  
> Family Activity Days
> Vertical gardening with the Youth Club  

> A 4-day trip to The Grange in Norfolk 

1. Carpentry project with the Youth Club 
We’ve developed a relationship with a nearby primary school who need planters for their own outdoor space.

Led by Dermot, last weekend we began a series of 3 sessions to build and decorate these planters. The young people took on the design brief and modified the build based on other planters we have made together. In this case we’re making beds that are low enough for young children to use, and also tough enough to stand up to inevitable playground clambering.

The session ran to twice its expected length because there was so much energy!
Later on we have access to laser-cutting equipment or 3D printing to make plaques to fix to the beds.

2. Family Activity Days
This half term we have helped facilitate the fourth Family Day of 2017 – partly social, partly to do an interesting activity, partly to join together for a meal (allowing for Ramadan).

Led by Jeni, we continued our mural project – the delightful idea of a ceiling decoration, based in images of water, for the underneath of the 4.5 metre-long rainwater catchment roof at the Tooting Community Garden.
We started with impromptu storytelling in groups of 3 people of all ages, based on graphics done in April’s session.

Stories have a beginning, a middle and an end, and each person supplied one of those – whatever their age.
For example, using a painting of a snowflake, one story ran: ‘Once upon a time a beautiful snowflake was gently falling…..then the sun came out….and the snowflake turned to water and went plop on my head’. Hearing 9 or 10 of these imaginative stories was fantastic!

Tuned up to be creative, we turned to painting details of our water images – either swirls and waves or drops (or petals…) – on the fascinating range of recycled scrap materials – metal, plastic, wood, CDs, buttons. (All from our friends at the Work and Play Scrapstore). Later we’ll arrange all these on the rainwater collector ceiling when we offer two Family sessions at the garden itself.

3. Vertical gardening with the Youth Club
In March and April Youth Club members made a pair of planters out of scrap pallets.  Since then we’ve been involving young people who want to work in depth with plants and keep all the planting looking good – all led by Rose, our team gardener.

Each pallet has 3 very narrow beds, and we fixed them to the outside of the railings at the CARAS office at Blakenham Road. Both pallet-beds are planted with young plants grown in Tooting at Share Garden.
Go and have a look – the beds symbolise the young people’s wish to look outwards, to interact with the wider community, to make something attractive for all to appreciate – and to enjoy the process.

4. A 4-day trip to The Grange in Norfolk
Earlier in May a group of 8 of us went to The Grange near Norwich – a respite centre combined with gardening and much more that CARAS has been to several times over the past 2 years. We were 4 young people from 3 countries, plus 4 adults from 3 countries, all helped by the two Grange hosts.

We lived in the comfortable old house within ten acres of farmland, walked in the woods, looked at moths and grass snakes, cooked our meals, made bread and pots, made plant prints, played a lot of instruments and games, played with our mobiles.  On the middle day a larger group of 15 local people, including other refugees, joined for the weekly work day when a big list of jobs was tackled.

The purpose is to have a positive, enjoyable, safe time together in a setting that is totally different from Tooting.
It was a big privilege to join and help facilitate!

Remember our Gardens of Refuge funding campaign and success?
A proportion of the funds helps CARAS attend The Grange.
More trips are planned for 2017.

Thank you for reading about these diverse activities. We believe they add up to experiences which are valuable for all of us involved: we’re all beneficiaries.

If you are interested to contribute either your time or other resources to help these projects – at a distance or hands-on – we’d love to talk about that. Please contact Charles by email.