This time last year we were in the middle of the voting period for the Aviva Community Fund, where the Gardens of Refuge joint project with the Tooting charity CARAS won £10,000 – thanks to the votes of many friends near and far. 

This time last year…the voting was hot!

We’re nearing the end of 2017’s diverse activities with refugee and asylum-seeker beneficiaries. TTT has co-facilitated over 20 workshops in 2017 with the project…there’s two more to go before Xmas.

Here’s an update of activities since the summer – and a view forwards as we plan for 2018. We’ve included notes about each of these: 

  1. Family Group
  2. Youth Club for unaccompanied young people
  3. Adults Group
  4. Stay With Love exhibition
  5. 2018 plans
  6. Would you like to contribute?

1 Family Group
With the CARAS team we co-facilitated a Family Activity Day over October half term in the Hall at All Saints, Tooting. 50 people joined in to meet and reconnect, do some fun creative activities for all ages and enjoy lunch cooked by members of the group.


The big activity was carving pumpkins – and before that of course you have to get hands-on to scoop out the seeds. Any reluctance to get sticky hands was very quickly lost…in fact this stage became an activity of its own as hollowing-out took over and the children shared their new skills (none had ever done this before). Then: sketching and designing, cutting and admiring, collecting candles to take home: adults and children made short work of 20 pumpkins.

We created more Signs of Welcome:

These narrow strips of timber – some of them are the slats from discarded bed frames – are a design challenge where the artist develops what they want to say as a message, works out the fit, and paints directly or uses stencils. 

The arttist can also tidy up an earlier sign…so it’s a collective project too.
Thanks Jeni, Nikki, Chuck, Hannah, Isabel and more.
We’re going to continue creating ‘Signs’ in other workshops with adults and children. The Signs evolved as a combination of our Community Garden crop markers and the welcoming words in many languages that decorate the four pallet-benches made by the Youth Club in July.

2 Youth Club
A rainy October afternoon saw us preparing outdoors at the Community Garden with members of the Youth Club who wanted to come along to an extra session. Some of us prepped the barbecue, some got the volcano kettle going, and some sawed down the selected plum trees we’d agreed early in the year needed thinning out. 
The style was ‘everyone contributes to making the day work’. 


Flying pumpkins

After doing those jobs we shared out lots of pumpkins and got down to carving, which was hilarious, with great results – and the first time for almost all of us. 
We lit candles and admired the collection while we ate our grilled sweet corn and baked sweet potatoes.

We only left the garden well after dark at 6:30 pm: it was a day of surpises all round where the rain was simply ignored. 
Thanks loads to Fiona, Jeni, Chuck, Hannah and Egle.

3 Adults group
Adults take part in ESOL classes at CARAS, and we’ve begun to explore how best to work together.
As an experiment we ran an hour’s screenprinting session after the Monday ESOL class – thanks to Fiona and Chuck.

We’re developing the idea of a series of short sessions like that – perhaps aimed at helping individuals make their own living spaces feel more like homes, or at making gifts…and more.

4 ‘Stay With Love’ Exhibition finale
We covered the exhibition & opening night in blog posts here and here.

We offered an extra meeting and discussion time on the last weekend of the show at The Sound Lounge, inviting anyone to join us to look at the 2018 strategy for the partnership between CARAS and TTT. It was very fruitful to talk, and we helped the chat along with some board game-style pieces representing purpose, partners, activities. 

We took everything down with the help of the Adult ESOL class – and for a little while the large Family Group mural painting was balanced outdoors in the sun on the main road. Many people stopped to ask about it. Maybe there’s another project there…?

5 Planning for 2018’s partnership with CARAS
Since September we’ve been exploring potential activities, facilitation roles, beneficiary groups, local relationships and of course the overall purpose of TTT and CARAS working together in 2018. 
The overall purpose is to strengthen local social sustainability including the existing Tooting community and the refugee and asylum-seeker community.
In outline the intention in 2018 is to focus on: 

  • beneficiary wellbeing 
  • making deeper links with other partners in Tooting by participating together on varied activities
  • self expression – including sharing the stories of CARAS refugees and asylum-seekers

There are planned 2018 events to contribute to, alongside whatever schedule of workshops that we devise – for example there’s Refugee Week, Wandsworth Arts Fringe, BATCA Community Day…and of course the 2018 Tooting Foodival.
There’s also the balance of need to assess across CARAS beneficiaries – for example we have done a lot with the Youth Club, and there are also many other partners who engage with them. However the CARAS Adult group has less provision…so we may shift the focus towards them. 
We’re exploring funding – what do we need it for; what are likely sources?
We’ll share more on the 2018 strategy soon.

“What is your dream?”

6 Would you like to contribute?
Do get in contact by email or on Facebook if you would like to contribute to this partnership project either as an individual or a local partner group. 
Over 35 people from TTT have done so, and we find it valuable, creative, challenging and fascinating. We’ve learned a lot.
CARAS offers us a two-part volunteer training induction on understanding the current reality for refugees and asylum-seekers in the UK and on safeguarding.