We’re reporting back every six weeks on the Gardens of Refuge Project. That’s our local project running throughout 2017 with refugees and asylum-seekers living in and nearby Tooting, alongside our project partners CARAS and The Grange.

Our previous summary at the end of May can be read here.
In June and July we’ve worked with the CARAS Saturday Youth Club. 

Elly Brown, MD at CARAS says:

“We’ve already witnessed the
transformations that take place
when people from far and wide
can use their skills and knowledge
to create something shared.”
What have we been doing together?
‘Stay with Love’ Making instant pallet benches:

In one mighty 4-hour session, a loose and changing group from the CARAS Youth Club co-designed, shared ideas, problem solved and brought in new team members to make four of these pallet benches.
Hats off to that dedicated group whose pride meant they insisted on eating their communal lunch sitting on the new benches.
Part of the production line was to write messages of welcome and invitation on the seat backs. 
These are in many languages.
These young people have come to the UK in search of a welcome, safety and to put down new roots. It’s poignant that they felt comfortable to contribute their own personal invitations so directly to all-comers.

These benches went on to the pop-up village green of the Tooting Twirl and now they’re in the Community Garden. Come and have a seat!
‘Stay with love’ as one young man wrote
on a bench.


Beetles and Bees 
Making planters for Hillbrook School:

Construction was more straightforward than the benches. With carpentry finished quickly, in June we painted the new planters cream.

In parallel we spent time drawing insects (real and imagined) – offering this in the crowded hall alongside ping pong, pool and games. It was a fun experiment to have youth clubbers drop by the ‘insect table’ to sketch….a new experience for everyone.

Our plan was to scan these drawings to make laser-cut plaques and cut-out insects to fix  onto the planters as fascinating decoration.
It worked! Many thanks for patience & persistence to Dermot, the South London Makerspace and Nicola.

Passing around these 3-D cutouts at the start of the following sessions, everyone could see the young people’s feelings of ownership and achievement.

The planters were delivered to Hillbrook School this week. In September we’ll have a celebration there with youth club members to ‘cut the ribbon’ to launch children’s growing in the beautiful planters.

PLUS: We’ve continued to work alongside young people looking after the planting done over 3 years at the CARAS office and the Hall around the corner. Thanks Rose, it’s looking very good!

Now we’re planning the next steps for the Family Days we’re facilitating in August in the Community Garden.

We’ve also begun to explore what we can do together with a new CARAS beneficiary group – single adults who don’t join the family days or the youth club.

If you would like to co-facilitate or contribute your time or materials to the Gardens of Refuge project – please email us, we’d love to discuss it.
– Charles