High5ives Volunteer Day: How an allotment helps the homeless

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We work hard to enable social change, globally and locally, both through the work we do and through our High5ives activities. High5ives is a platform powered by the people in Havas Lynx to drive social good and improve the lives of those within our communities. As part of the High5ives programme each member of the team has the opportunity to take one day’s paid leave each year to volunteer within their local community to action helpful change.
Angus Prior copywriter at Havas Lynx describes his experiences, as he helps local charity for the homeless, Barnabus on their allotment.

Spare some veg?

On a small strip of land behind a church in Longsight, you’ll find radishes, courgettes, carrots, tomatoes, chillies, sweet peas, raspberries, blackberries – all cultivated by the city’s homeless people.

This allotment, set up by Manchester charity Barnabus, has been growing for around eight years now. For every week of those eight years, men and women who have fallen out of the system visit it, trying to find a little peace as they get themselves back on their feet.

It’s easy to see how it helps. A group of four of us from Havas Lynx turn up on a sweltering day, one of the last good ones of summer, and get to work. Despite the steady rumble of cars and buses from the road next to it, there’s something unmistakably calming about the place.

As Carol Price, Development and Fundraising Manager at Barnabus, tells us: ‘You can see how it changes the guys. Within a short time of being here the men and women become relaxed, they talk more freely. It allows them to really open up and share how they’re feeling. It’s then that we can often start to offer help with situations that might have until then been unknown.’

What’s particularly clever about the allotment is it not only serves as a therapeutic space, but all the fruit and veg grown there goes back into meals that are distributed by Barnabus to the city’s homeless people. It is created by the homeless, for the homeless.

And it’s hard work, as we find out. Our dainty soft office hands, only used to the slight pressure of a pen or keyboard, have blisters on them almost as soon as we begin. Turfing the garden is hard and digging even more difficult: the ground seems to be about 80% brick, left by builders who couldn’t be bothered to dump it properly. Thanks a bunch, fellas.

But it’s exactly this sort of work that is so beneficial, especially for people who need to get back into independent living. Even something as simple as looking after an allotment, building it, shaping it and maintaining it for the long-term, equips you with valuable skills.

After a lot of sweat and a few Kitkats our work is done. We’ve created a new flower bed, a new fruit bush bed, and planted an apple tree – all of which will continue to bloom in the months and years to come. It’s satisfying stuff. And it’s amazing just how much that can help.

‘There’s this one individual who we set up in a flat,’ Carol tells us. ‘He now lives completely independently and has his own life. But he still comes back every week, without fail, to help out at the allotment. He says it played a big role in helping him get off the street. That’s the difference it can make.’

 

Find out more about the incredible work Barnabus do here.