Vulnerable individuals garden their way into the community

Alex, 16, treasurer Juliet ,  and Andy Fuller, 16, with chairman of trustees Hamish Mackay at their plot of land in a garden in Worthing Road
Alex, 16, treasurer Juliet , and Andy Fuller, 16, with chairman of trustees Hamish Mackay at their plot of land in a garden in Worthing Road

Vulnerable, homeless, or mentally unwell individuals are being welcomed into the community through a fledgling project in Southwater.

Action to Revive Community (A2RC) is a new non profit project founded by members of Southwater Community Methodist Church (SCMC) and aiming to build community spirit while assisting vulnerable individuals through one large community project.

Hamish Mackay, chairman of the board of trustees, said the project trustees are looking for new members to help make it a success.

“We have a vision to create a community garden or farm in Southwater, as a way of revitalising the community,” he explained. “We set it up because we felt there was a need to have a place within the village that would help bring the community closer together.

“We wanted to establish a garden as a way to help those more vulnerable members of our community, feel part of the community they live in.

“This project could help young people with learning difficulties, people who feel outside the community, those in sheltered housing, or who are suffering from depression, or who just feel alone.”

The organisation has been set up for 18 months but currently Hamish has only managed to secure a plot of land at the home of Southwater resident Audrey Broad, who finds it hard to manage the whole of her garden by herself.

Audrey said: “Since my husband, god bless him, passed away, he had always taken control of all the gardening and I would help him out a bit but now I just could not cope with it all on my own.”

Audrey’s generously sized garden on Worthing Road looks over the fields and countryside to the west of Southwater, providing a small but beautiful meeting location.

Juliet Fuller, a project treasurer, says that the project has been a great way for her two teenage sons, who have special needs, to spend time in the fresh air.

“They both go to schools for students with special needs so many of their friends don’t live nearby.

“So this is a great way for me to get them out the house and exercising in a sociable way.”

Hamish has big plans for the future of the currently very small-scale project.

“In time, we would like to grow this into a community farm and garden project,” he said, “as such we will be working with the Parish Council and other groups to help make this a success.

“We hope that we will be able to add buildings to the site, a coffee shop, maybe a meeting hall or barn.”

Angie Choat, Southwater’s youth worker, is helping the incentive by directing any people who could benefit from the project, to it.

Permaculture specialist, Bilal Rehman-Furs, has also helped the organisation by providing plants and gardening tips.

Hamish said: “We are still looking to reach out to any troublesome teenagers and other people who need our support.”

The project founders will be getting involved in the Southwater Horticultrual Society’s open gardens day on Sunday August 12.

“We will effectively have three open gardens in one,” Hamish explained. “Audrey will showcase her part of the garden, Audrey’s daughter Jenny will showcase hers and we will showcase our plot.”

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