RHS reaches out to refugees
25 July 2012
For the first time, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the British Red Cross have partnered to help 100 refugees and asylum seekers learn how to grow their own fruit and vegetables at home.
Sarah-Jane Mason and John Hickling from the RHS visited the ‘Open Door’ centre in Hull on 21 June to run a gardening workshop for people from troubled countries such as Somalia, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Through practical demonstrations and activities, the RHS aimed to give attendees the skills and knowledge to be able to feed themselves and their families. Congolese asylum seeker Josephine said she was interested in growing fruit and vegetables but didn’t know what to grow in the UK. From attending this workshop she was ‘really surprised that there are so many things to grow’ and is now ‘considering volunteering for the community allotment to try out some crops.’
‘Living in a foreign country with little support and few prospects can be frightening and de-motivating’ says Simon Foster, British Red Cross International tracing and messaging co-ordinator. Many of the attendees did not speak any English, yet Sarah-Jane Mason said: ‘The workshop has demonstrated how practical aspects of horticulture can bridge any communication barrier.' A volunteer at the centre said the day had been ‘a real confidence boost.’
After two other successful events in association with Age UK, involving Sarah-Jane and John, the RHS will continue partnering with similar organisations and have already planned two further events with the British Red Cross, including a visit to their allotment run by volunteer refugees and asylum seekers.