Three national charities, Social Farms & Gardens (SF&G), City of Sanctuary and the Permaculture Association, are coming together on November 17th at Stepney City Farm to launch a new collection of resources aimed at helping the UK’s community growing spaces welcome sanctuary seekers, including refugees and asylum seekers.
The partnership are now seeking funding to deliver training to support community growing spaces to develop programmes to engage sanctuary seekers.
The resource pack, report and series of case studies are designed to support the creation of a network of green spaces with a culture of welcome, in which sanctuary seekers feel safe and appreciated as valued contributors and co-creators of projects across the UK.
The pack has been created by a partnership project between the three organisations called Gardens of Sanctuary, which aims to address the refugee crisis by helping the UK’s network of community growing spaces create a culture of welcome for sanctuary seekers.
People who have fled violence and persecution and sought sanctuary are some of the most marginalised in the UK. Studies show that they are 5 times more likely to experience poor mental health, and 10 times more likely to suffer with PTSD, yet compared to the general population they are significantly less likely to receive support for these conditions. The experience of being an asylum seeker in the UK can also be highly stressful and isolating, with periods of destitution not uncommon while people wait, sometimes for several years, for the outcome of their claim.
There are now more than a thousand community growing spaces in the UK, ranging from small allotment and permaculture plots to large care farms and city farms, all of which create opportunities for people to get outdoors, get active, and use land-based activities to transform and connect their communities. A growing number of scientific studies show that the outcomes of community growing include improved mental health, physical health and community integration for those involved. There are already examples of this happening to great effect, and now the Gardens of Sanctuary partnership want more sanctuary seekers to feel able to get involved in community growing where they live.
Chris Blythe from SF&G said: “Our research shows that the vast majority of our members care deeply about the refugee crisis and would like to welcome more sanctuary seekers to their gardens and projects, but don’t necessarily know the best way to reach out to them.”
“The Gardens of Sanctuary resources will help groups embed the principles of sanctuary into their space. We want to ensure people of all ages, abilities, faiths and backgrounds can come together in our cities, towns and villages to achieve great things, and this is a great step towards that aim.”
Ben Margolis from City of Sanctuary said: “People seeking sanctuary in the UK have often experienced huge amounts of trauma and there are significant barriers to them becoming actively involved in their communities. Community gardens have the potential to offer vital opportunities for volunteering, learning and sharing skills and enabling people to meet and connect with others in their local area.”
Andy Goldring from the Permaculture Association said “This is going to be a hugely useful resource for our members. Projects all across the UK engage their communities in really creative ways, but often struggle to include everyone. This resource pack provides detailed advice and successful case studies that will give them the confidence they need to support refugees and asylum seekers in their activities.”