Friday, 28 December 2012

VOLUNTEERING AT THE FOREST GARDEN

Volunteering at Moulsecoomb Forest Garden Project isn't just about gardening. Working with us is the perfect opportunity to learn about outdoor education - using nature as a way of teaching pupils, especially effective for those that struggle in the classroom.

Nancy Walker started as a volunteer with us five years ago when she was at the University of Sussex; within two years she was asked to be on our management committee and is now employed by the garden as a sessional worker at Moulsecoomb Primary and runs clubs for other primary school pupils across the city.

"I started volunteering at the forest garden in my first year of university. Part of my course at the time required us to carry out research outside of campus. The nature of carrying out ethnographic research is one that is based on getting stuck in, rather than being the observer. Luckily we found ourselves at a project that was more than happy to have more hands on board: be that digging out trenches, sowing seeds, coppicing for wood or just making pots of tea on an open fire. I continued to volunteer at the forest garden throughout university, it was a place where I could escape from an academic mindset and focus my energy practically and socially. I learnt more about what I wanted to do after university from the forest garden than I did at university – as I discovered a passion for gardening and working with people of different ages, abilities and backgrounds.

Two years on from finishing university a lot of my life has revolved around these two things: people and gardening, be it regenerating a derelict piece of land into a community garden or setting up an organisation that aims to engage young people in ecology creatively. I also run two environment afterschool clubs, one which is at Moulsecoomb primary and works as an extension of the forest garden project, I have also recreated a war time garden at this school, quite literally bringing history to life, where the year fours are digging there way to victory producing an abundance of potatoes and carrots that they would have grown throughout World War II. I still pop up to the forest garden on volunteer days when I can - mainly to catch up with the great friends I have made there and chill out ironically in the polytunnel."

Amyas Gilbert started as a student volunteer, joined our management committee, became chair then had to resign as we now employ him to run sessions with pupils on our workdays as well as getting him to run garden sessions at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy

"I started volunteering at the Moulsecoomb Forest Garden Project in my second year of university, where I studied psychology. I think I just wanted to do something a bit more down to earth, in every sense of the term. I mucked in at the project on and off throughout my studies, and after graduating I attended both weekly work days every week for the next three and a half years. Bit by bit, I took on more responsibilities, was asked to join the management committee, and was eventually offered the position of chair of the board of trustees. This was all great work experience: learning horticulture and outdoor skills, helping to manage other volunteers and organise work, and finding out first-hand what it takes to run a serious community project.
Over those years I progressively got more involved with the youth work activities, assisting the highly experienced staff running outdoor education sessions with local school pupils at risk of exclusion. When an opportunity arose for the project work with more pupils and take on an extra member of staff, I was first to be offered the job. Since then I have been working full-time as a self employed youth worker, at the Mousecoomb Forest Garden and at several linked projects at local schools. In connection to this work I am also developing a school garden project of my own, am attending externally funded training courses, and am being offered outdoor education youth work by several other organisations."

Amyas takes a well earned break 

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