Students and Refugees Together (START):
START works with individuals, families and organisations to facilitate the transition of refugees from people in need to SELF RELIANT contributors to their local community. We do this through one-to-one case work and community activities that include a fortnightly cultural kitchen, walks in the countryside in the summer, women's creative group and an allotment. Students on placement work with refugees to build a relationship with them, gather information, understand their situation and goals, design an action plan and broker services to enable them achieve their desired goals. START also runs community activities that are vital to the well-being of refugees.
Community activities - the allotment:
Community activities provide a space for refugees to meet and socialise not just with other refugees but also with the wider community. The allotment provides a calm place that promotes their emotional well-being especially as most had traumatic experiences and may still be suffering the effects of such trauma. The produce from the allotment is often used in the Cultural Kitchen or handed out to refugees to use. Refugees who attend the allotment report that because they mingle and converse with students, staff and volunteers they develop confidence, improve their English language skills and other skills relevant to their integration and job search.
For refugees who have individual plots at the allotment, it provides a space outside the noisiness and busyness, and for some refugees the boredom, of daily life. It is a space to get lost in nature, feel the soil, listen to birds and just enjoy owning a piece that they can tend as they wish. One plot owner said "When I come to the allotment, I feel the soil, I hear the birds and I feel so very happy. I see plants growing and that tells me there is hope."
The need for sheds and tools:
We have 2 delapidated sheds that are falling apart. The doors were forced open during a recent attempted burglary on the site. Apart from the risk that the current sheds pose to individuals, our tools are not secure in them. We are raising money to buy 2 replacement sturdy sheds and benches for the seating area where refugees can sit and relax or have a picnic when the weather is good. We need another £500 for tools for our allotment. Our old and blunt tools mean that we expend more time and energy weeding, planting and watering and not enough time for refugees to just enjoy the environment and sit and socialise with others. We will buy a lawn mower, spades, shovels, wheel barrows, pruning forks, poly sheets, garden composters, wellington boots and other smaller tools.
The money will transform our allotment. It will attract more refugees to enjoy the peace, tranquillity, fresh air, closeness with nature, produce from the soil, contentment of putting in a hard day's work and just the opportunity to relax with other refugees, case workers and volunteers at a social level while developing confidence and building relevant skills for the future. For some refugees the allotment provides fond memories of the lives they left behind. Good quality sheds will also enable us store our tools securely. A plot owner said "My grandfather had a lot of land .... I love to come here and and dig and grow my own food".