In the build-up to Volunteers Week and Wales Nature week, Emma and Keisha visited SRCDC and Growing Together in Riverside plant Giveaway, supported by Grow Cardiff, to speak with volunteers and community members about their experiences and the effort they are contributing to improving local communities in Riverside. It was windy and unpredictable weather on the day but still buzzing with activity in the community which is testament to the success of these projects.
The first volunteer we spoke to was there on an informal basis and for the very first time which shows the flexible nature of this community environment volunteering. Both Growing Together and Grow Cardiff use WhatsApp to communicate events and opportunities to the community which allows anyone to come and help on an irregular basis. It was the word of mouth that brought them to the projects in the first place having been asked by a friendly local in Riverside to join. They explained that their role was to give people the plants and ask people’s names, in order to build up connections in the neighbourhood, as well as providing information on what to do with the plants.
“We talk and some people don’t know the name or what the plants are, some people ask me what to do with this plant (sage) and I tell them to make tomato sauce. I enjoy it.”
Another volunteer, Mandula, has been with the Growing Together Project since it first started in 2020. She works at SRCDC as a cleaner and when she heard about the growing and gardening project she wanted to be involved. She showed us lots of pictures of her garden, which was filled to bursting with vegetables and chilli plants, tomatoes, it is clear her passion is for growing and gardening. “I like to volunteer here, I chat to the people and ask do you like this one its aubergine and cabbage, runner beans”
In fact, it is very impressive she has grown a lot of the vegetables for the giveaway and all from her own small back garden and greenhouse. It is wonderful to see how much she loves gardening and growing her own produce. She first learnt to grow on her family’s farm in India and would go to school and then help at the farm grow coconut, mango trees and is now sharing these skills with the Riverside community and younger generations. The family often comes to enjoy the food and space and all the food she has grown, getting as much enjoyment out of it as she can. As Louise (project lead) mentioned (volunteers) are adapting that knowledge to the climate here and learning how to grow their traditional crops here in the Welsh capital.
Finally, we spoke to another volunteer, Kieran, who came to the project through Grow Cardiff and an Occupational therapist. For him, volunteering has provided a sense of purpose to come once a week and meet up to talk about not just plants but other topics.
“It’s introduced me to a larger community, I just helped an 80-year-old lady carry two bags of compost to the car, she was trying to carry them alone, and I asked her and said no let me do it. It’s lovely, you meet nice people there is a Whatsapp group, and people share pictures of what they are doing.” Alka, from Grow Cardiff, recalls one of the reed workshops and how she was really impressed by his creativity, which has come about since he joined some of the sessions.
“The other issues that I had with homelessness and I’ve still got it is nice to feel a part of something.” – Kieran
See here for further information on the environmental nature of this great project: https://lnp.cymru/News-Growing-Together-Project