This September, we’ve had the pleasure of talking to June Perkin, founder of The Growing Zone, a community garden in Kippax, Leeds, which brings together young and older people with disabilities to learn about plants and gardening. Having been funded through various LCF grant programmes across the years, The Growing Zone have recently received a Comic Relief Community Cash grant from LCF to enhance their learning environment by purchasing a computer and microscopes for the young people to use.
How has The Growing Zone benefitted its community?
The Growing Zone initially started as a gardening project in 2008, but over the years has developed into so much more. We accommodate anyone, regardless of ability, and do whatever anyone wishes to try.
We are used by lots of community groups in our local area and beyond who come for days out, evenings and weekend fun. It never stops and we love it – everyone is welcome.
The Growing Zone has not only created a place for people to come and learn new skills, but for so many people it is a reason to get up in the morning, join in with like minded people and enjoy themselves. We also have tons of parties and nights out and have become an enormously large family.
How has Leeds Community Foundation supported the project and what difference has this made?
I would like to say that LCF have been absolute stars to us over the years. Without their direction and help with applications for large funding bids to help us safeguard our project, we would not be able to offer the life changing activities and lifelong friendships that have developed at The Growing Zone over the years.
To say thanks to the Foundation and to those who donate to you, helping community groups such as ours, somehow does not seem enough. But please be assured we do mean it and please accept our warmest wishes and much appreciation from us all.
What can you do at The Growing Zone?
Here are just a few things we do in the garden:
All types of gardening, pruning, planting…
- Garden design
- Making garden furniture
- Garden maintenance
- Star gazing
You name it and we will have a go at it. We go through more teabags and biscuits than Tesco does and mainly have fun!
Why did you set up The Growing Zone?
The Growing Zone was set up when we identified a certain need within our community. There were many people with certain needs that needed a place where they could spend time in the fresh air, do what they want to and be themselves. We wanted to create something they could call their own and take ownership of it. That was the thinking behind it and it has since grown into so much more. It is difficult to explain in words what we get out of it – the laughter we have and the silly things we do say it all for us. Sometimes we don’t want to go home, no matter how tired we are.
What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve had since you started?
We have lots of rewarding moments, so to pick one out would be very difficult. Some moments are very special, especially when someone achieves something for the very first time which they have never had the confidence to do before. For us, the look of pride and achievement we see on a daily basis when someone has done something out of their comfort zone is mega and worth all the hard work. It’s the smiles that do it for us every time.
What’s next for The Growing Zone?
The next step is to make sure that we always stay open so all our visitors have a place to go to for as long as they need it. To that end, we are constantly trying to improve what we do and whoops! Sometimes we do get it wrong.
Eventually, we hope to raise enough funds to train up and give our youngsters jobs for life. Some of our young people are already helping other, less able people than themselves. Once we have gone to that great allotment in the sky, they in turn, can build a life where they can help other people with needs that are in a similar place as they have been.
Our service users inspire such pride with their resilience and determination to change their lives. How can we not join in and take pride in their lovely lives?
For more information about the Growing Zone, visit: www.growingzone.co.uk