My journey with Living Under One Sun community allotment started in January.As seasoned gardeners will know, January can be an inhospitable time in the 'great outdoors' and within moments of my first visit I was knee deep in wet clay - It was brilliant. The warmth of welcome that I received convinced me that I was in a great place. Within a few weeks of regular volunteering I was hooked, I was being given responsibility and felt invested in the work we were doing on site. Being outdoors working with people from all walks of life for a common purpose improved my wellbeing and confidence massively. I also found a love for plants and growing food crops and a deep satisfaction from watching things grow week after week. The allotment is such a beautiful place to spend time, no matter what the weather is doing!
The community allotment is hub of activity, yet an oasis of peace, hidden in Tottenham Hale.I have been going to the community garden for over a year now. It is a place that allows you to dip into their activities and take part in a way you feel comfortable and at your own individual pace. There’s a great 'welcome' from LUOS staff, with general support/ instructions on gardening tasks and safety from these and other trained instructors. There are loads of tasks to choose from nothing is compulsory. There’s a real mixture of people, ages, talents and abilities. To start with I knew nothing about gardening but to my utter amazement I became fascinated with watching the growth of plants from seedlings to harvest.
This place is a buzz of activity, literally there’s a bee hive section. Some people just pop in occasionally, others are regulars that bring in expertise.
"There is a real mix of people here, with a very inclusive atmosphere."Personally, I feel healthier and know I has been greatly aided by the physical exercise and the pleasant company. Although it took a little bit of courage on my part to mix with people I didn't know, the friendliness and skills of staff made it an easy transition. I started off by working on a one to one basis with a staff member or volunteer just for a couple of hours a week and now am happy to be there for many more hours a week. Living Under One Sun also holds lots of courses and classes with recognised qualifications which I have also benefited from. I started with the introduction to herbal medicine and it was fun to be with a like-minded small group of people who were interested in alternative health methods. I then completed my level one in Practical Gardening skills. All of which I feel, have focused my mind and reminded me we can all do with learning new skills.
I was put into contact with LUOS’s cycling group at Tottenham Hale.They have bikes, a small but safe practice area, and the brilliant and beautiful Lea Valley tow path to hone your bike skills. Alongside this, the instructors’ patience and skill have allowed me to slowly build my confidence and cycling technique. Besides the exercise, fresh air, all of us - kids through to retired folks - not only learn how to ride safely as individuals but also as a group of cyclists. We learn about how to take care for our bikes, do maintenance checks, fix punctures etc., so that also in the long run saves money for us too.
From the Cycling and Walking Projects
Some of the testimonies, comments and stories shared with us include the following:
Mrs S - Moroccan
I was getting really depressed at home, I felt my younger daughter was so demanding. I was desperate and needed support to do something else and meet other people and not be stuck in the tower block. Through a friend and neighbour I found out about LUOS. I was welcomed, became a community leader and got DBS checked. With other women I started setting up information stalls and doing outreach in local schools, talking to other parents about active traveling. Safe and proper childcare was and is essential for us. I have my confidence back now I’m hoping to go for full time work and study when my daughter gets a nursery place.
Mrs N - Yemeni.
"My son was ill for so long I went nowhere except to take him to hospitals and doctors. He has passed away and I have lost him now. I feel so sad also so unfit and isolated. I can’t believe it and I am so happy to do these sessions on my doorstep. Meeting other local women I can relate to, they are just like me and I feel accepted. I really need to lose weight feel shy to go to gym and can’t afford it. It is great some women are saying that we could do trips to other places in London, maybe I can do that too.
Mrs Z –Somalian
I came for one session when it started last Spring, but then I had so much family problems to sort out, I became very ill too. On the way to pick up my kids from school I saw the stalls and found out the group was still going. Sometimes things start up and only last for few weeks, but I found out women were meeting on Wednesdays to go to the Marshes and got the leaflet again from my Somali neighbour and friend so I got encouraged. I am so glad to be back! I got help with other housing problems and money advice. I feel so much better doing the walking group and coming to help with stalls, the outreach, helping organise the African Yoga classes and getting other Somali women involved. Me and three other Somali mothers are thinking of doing the bike properly when the weather gets better. We love the bikes and they look great, not too big and they fold away will you still be around? Two of the mothers really want to lose weight?
‘The walk group has residents from 20 to 77 years old, coming from so many cultures. I was saying to my son, of course there are English speaking like me, we got Scottish, Jamaican, Greek, Chilean, Turkish and Middle Eastern… people from Portugal , Barbados and Trinidad. There’s so many different languages and everyone loves talking about good food. We see things growing on the beautiful marshes and someone knows a recipe or two. We should write it all down when we walk fast ‘cause I can’t take it all in’.
‘I value coming to the bike group. I can’t believe how so many of us don’t know how to ride and feel ashamed of trying. Well here we are doing it - and for free! Some of us really are looking forward to joining in the rides. You just need more teachers here'.
Father from Northumberland Park spends weekend time with his son (aged 12-13) living in Ferry Lane. They have been coming to the sessions regularly. The son is also learning to lead a group along the river and is building much competency and confidence. ‘I am really amazed how my son has responded to your instruction… how being patient, kind and firm works.. he took charge and led the ride.. .It’s challenging finding regular, free fun time with your teenage son. He’s definitely better than me now. How often fathers get to admit that! He always saw me lead, but I did not want to go the narrow path! He’s earned e’. Mr C - ‘ Having mental health and being diagnosed with a label doesn’t not make life easy for a young man, trust and respect means a lot to me. I come every week to the cycling club and I feel happy to help out and take responsibility. I come here every Saturday and love the long rides….means I get to join in a group that’s not for patients, and keep fit, and meet others!’.
‘I’ve been a pensioner for some years now and I didn’t think to manage riding well again, and doing long rides. How wonderful to see I could achieve this. The instructor’s really friendly, makes you feel welcome and take breaks in really nice places for us to rest and befriend each other. I’ve been telling my neighbours all about it …. getting them to come along. I say if I can do it anyone can!’
‘I come from Trinidad and I’m 76 years old, our school motto was “ ‘Can Not’ is the son of ’Never Try’”. You tend to forget that when you get older….. but we can do things! So I just get up and go now. I think it is so sad that we stop being active and stay at home getting depressed, feeling lonely. These type of neighbourhood projects help a lot, gets you to meet people, get healthy, getting to know other facilities and projects around you. I’m so glad to be helping out and bringing new people to join us… you just need to lead by example.’
‘I can’t do cycling now as it presses my bladder, so I just do the walking. People start asking each other how they really are and, if anyone misses a session, we make time to listen too when we’re walking. Making friends is also a good thing that happens here. We talk about serious stuff too… like hospital appointments, study problems and overcrowding and fuss at home, insomnia, being lonely, death in the family, being a migrant not being able to see loved ones or travel to attend funerals, money, bills and relationship stuff. People are forming relationships and it’s all in the open air not stuck in the flat. I feel I’ve exercised but also learned a thing or two about others and myself’.
‘I’ve met so many people and I walk everywhere now. I meet my friends and go to Wood Green, sometimes we even have bus pass but we don’t use it, unless we have big shopping then we get the bus’
‘It’s cool! Getting to repair your bikes for free and learn how to do it!’
From "Well Park Lane Community Leadership & Healthy Living Programme"
We had waiting list for all the Well Park Lane activities, which was a testament to their popularity.As the project progressed and gained local respect and recognition the community activators became more confident, involved with the local agenda on health, well-being and urban regeneration, and they were also able to tell real stories to local key players and give testimonies - some examples of which were:
Young people and parents also gave feedback as individuals and as group.At the end of each session we asked young people one thing they learned, one thing they enjoyed most, and something they wanted to improve. Common themes in this feedback were:
- enjoying doing something with others in the neighbourhood which was not like school work;
- doing performance and showcasing their work in their neighbourhood;
- having a place to go meet new friends that they do not normally do.
Community lead volunteer" I feel so moved by seeing the people come together. I never thought I had so much to give “
Young Albanian boy aged 11"I never won any medals before. My mum said she will get me some shoes so I don't have to wear my PE ones"
A father of 2"I only get Saturday access to my kids and it's hard to always find something to do outside. It's great that I can still be around the neighbourhoods doing things with them. I like the fact you give them fruit, he is being asking for cut oranges and carrots after school... that's just something else! ".
A Somali Mum"I feel my kids respect me more seeing me doing things for myself. I say to them come on, hurry up I'm going to be late for my class !! They laugh and tease me!"
A motherAbout the football sessions "I don't allow my kids to play around this neighbourhood. I like coming and watching them and meeting other neighbours, it's not so bad here".
A young boy"Coach can we do this all the time? Can we set up 5 a side? I promises not to hit or drop my rubbish again, can my cousin come please?"
A young woman"I was so proud to stand in front of others and talk about our after school running group . My headteacher does not think much of me but I showed him I am something!".
Local Woman 2"I feel I'm given wings to fly . I'm still scared and sometimes panic. For so long I got put down by his way and the way he was so manipulating, but now I'm doing something about it, not just for me and my two boys, but for other women too".
A Local Woman"This walk and women's group means a lot to me. I feel I was housebound with my little boy who was so sick for so long"
A father of 2 young boys"It is so good to have something happening on Saturdays. Gives me a chance to know my area after work. This football cage is always empty or full of rubbish and drinking bottles. I am glad to help the sessions as a local father dong thing with my son. It is good meeting other parents specially fathers who don't know how to get involved and have limited week end access or time with their kids".
A mother recovering from alcohol abusewith an 18 monthly old baby "I have told the Job Centre I need this group to build my confidence and help myself and reconnect with my baby - my caseworker agreed to change my time so I can attend the women with a voice group".
The Activator from Dynamic Sports"As a father of two young boys, I feel I needed to do something in my own neighbourhood and encourage other fathers, especially young men, to help out too. Saturday sessions are hard to set up with all the early rubbish collections and running two age groups activities, but seeing the boys coming back every week and their families watching, and getting to know each other is so worthwhile".
The Young Eagles Dance Academy"Thank you from bottom of my heart - I never though it will be possible to achieve so much. Just thought of doing something in my head, now all is happening my children are so happy dancing in their own local group".
"Home From Hospital" Community Project
"Helping people getting back home safely, means less people going to hospital again"177 isolated residents were accompanied home with 98% reporting, that they felt safe and comfortable as a result of our proactive befriending service. LUOS was successful in extending the service beyond borough-based hospitals to receive referrals of Haringey residents from Homerton, Hammersmith, UCL and Whipps Cross hospitals. The service received very high satisfaction levels from patients, service providers and professionals. 177 isolated residents were accompanied home with 98% reporting, that they felt safe and comfortable as a result of our proactive befriending service.
“I feel comfortable with you. I feel like I’ve known you a long time”
91 year old man
“ I would not know how to begin to thank you for my mother’s care and how you helped us to understand, cope and communicate with the hospital. You’ve given us respect and love and dignity by paying attention to details”
a next of kin
“You were a miracle and had so much patience”
87 year old man
“ It’s (HFH) been an amazing lifeline which has enabled me to feel as though I have a better quality of life and not just surviving. I wish I had known that this wonderful organisation had existed before my prior three operations., but very glad now! Thankyou team
54 year old woman.