Friday 6 July 2012
For the first time, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the British Red Cross partnered to help 100 refugees and asylum seekers learn how to grow food at home.
On Thursday (21 June), Sarah-Jane Mason and John Hickling from the RHS, visited the ‘Open Door’ centre in Hull for a workshop in front of people from war-torn and poverty-stricken areas such as Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Iran and Eastern European countries. Their aim was to provide the refugees with the skills and knowledge to grow fruit and vegetables to feed themselves and their families.
Simon Foster, British Red Cross International Tracing and Messaging Co-ordinator, said: “What a fantastic success the day was and so well attended, educational and inspiring for all. Many of our refugees are destitute and have extremely limited resources and means. Bringing plants, seeds and soil with them, the RHS demonstrated how to grow their own food at home in a small space like a windowsill or yard. The opportunity to plant something to take home was superb.
“The great thing about gardening is that it’s practical and can be understood by all,” said Simon. “Which makes the language difficulties that some of our attendees experience, completely unimportant. The event encouraged an additional 50 people to attend which shows the kind of interest there is.
“Living in a foreign country with little support and few prospects can be frightening and de-motivating. This event has given them a confidence boost, which I’m so pleased about. It was an empowering day for them and I am delighted to say this partnership will continue.”
Josephine, a Congolese asylum seeker, said (translated): “I am interested in growing my own fruit and vegetables but didn’t know what I could grow in the UK. Today was a great event, I was really surprised that there are so many things I can grow, and am looking forward to growing some things I planted today at home. I am also considering volunteering for the community allotment to try out come crops.”
Debashis, a volunteer at the Centre, said: “Today has been a real confidence booster for me. I didn’t know what I could grow at home and now feel that I have the skills and knowledge to try a range of crops. I am really looking forward to growing food for my family to eat.”
Sarah-Jane Mason said: ‘What a brilliant day – it is always encouraging to meet people who are interested in growing their own fruit and vegetables but I can honestly say the group today were the most enthusiastic I have worked with. The event also showed how the practical aspects of horticulture can bridge any communication barriers. Many of the attendees did not speak English but were still able to participate and plant something to take away.”
After two successful events with Age UK, which involved Sarah-Jane and John teaching gardening to a group of elderly people, the RHS will continue partnering with organisations like this and have already planned two further events with the British Red Cross including a visit to their allotment which is run by volunteer refugees and asylum seekers.
Notes to editors
For more information and please contact Ed Horne on 020 7821 3356, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s foremost gardening charity, helping and inspiring millions of people to garden. We do this at our gardens and shows and through our scientific research, publications, libraries and our education and community programmes. We are entirely funded by our members, visitors and supporters.
RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk
RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262