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Hammersmith gardening charity looking for volunteers hit by Covid layoffs

Categoriesnews Communitynews

Image captionImage 1: HCGA school and community gardener Poppy Gagiatsou working with volunteers

A fun project combining gardening, cooking and crafts is set to launch next month to help improve mental health and wellbeing for those most affected during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new ‘Grow Well’ scheme from local charity Hammersmith Community Gardens Association (HCGA) aims to bring together locals of all ages for ‘flexible’ weekly volunteering sessions in Ravenscourt Park, says the charity’s operations manager Katie Shaw.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve had so many more requests for volunteering – especially more flexible volunteering,” explains Katie. “People might have been furloughed, or made redundant, or have been in social isolation struggling with mental health and wellbeing.”

The HCGA – which is financially supported by Hammersmith & Fulham Council – was awarded £10,000 from Imperial Health Charity to run the year-long scheme, which kicks off on Saturday 15 June.

Based at Ravenscourt Glasshouses in Ravenscourt Park, the project is due to run at 10am to noon and 1pm to 3pm each Tuesday, for up to 10 volunteers at each session.

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Image caption: Image 2: Volunteers working at Ravenscourt Glasshouses

What’s on offer?

Each week will focus on a different activity using produce grown in the glasshouses and surrounding garden, from making herbal products such as soap and lip balm, to creating lavender bags.

Many of the sessions will help hone volunteers’ cooking skills, with session leader Elaine O’Hara, who is one of the HCGA’s school and community gardeners, sharing recipes for soups and healthy one-pot meals including curries, chillies and paella.

Gardening sessions on growing plants from seed, taking cuttings and learning about houseplants are planned during the summer launch of the community project.

“Living a healthy lifestyle will have a positive impact on the resources of the NHS,” points out Katie. “We really wanted to run a project that would allow people to come along for a few sessions to get out of the house and do something practical. The idea is about creating a mix of health, wellbeing and gardening activities for volunteers.”

As the project extends into autumn, sessions on preserving jams, pickles and chutneys are on the cards, along with crafts such as wreath-making as the festive season approaches.

The project will be split into a series of three-month chunks, meaning more opportunities for locals to get involved throughout the year.

And the flexibility of the sessions means volunteers can make ‘quite a minimal commitment’ adds Katie, so they can fit around any appointments or other commitments that come up.

“We also have plenty of volunteering opportunities at our regular sessions in Ravenscourt Park and at the Phoenix Farm in White City,” explains Katie.

“Our capacity is quite large, so allows for any of the new Grow Well volunteers who decide they would like to keep coming in the future.”

To find out more about the Grow Well project and register to attend sessions, please email volunteering@hcga.org.uk or visit the HCGA website for more information about the charity.

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