Wellington College – GrowBabyGrow: Community Action Project Comes to Fruition

17 Jan 2019

Students from Wellington College have been working with volunteers from the Vineyard Church in Crowthorne to transform a plot of land into a safe space for children.

The GrowBabyGrow project will allow parents to work on the adjacent allotments, providing food for themselves and nourishment for the whole community. The experience has been transformative for all involved. Blake, a Fifth Form student who helped with the physical work of levelling the ground, commented, ‘I have enjoyed the manual labour because, by using my own energy, I have helped to change someone’s life. It is not like signing a form or sending money. By putting the effort in, I feel that I’ve been the person making the change’. Netty Field, a volunteer from the Vineyard Church, who has overseen the project, spoke about the impact the Wellington students have had: ‘I feel it’s really captured their hearts – they have really listened to the needs of some of the local families and have gone away and thought about it. Michaela, one of the family members involved, has a phrase, ‘Less talk, more dig’, and the Wellington students have definitely done that: they have just got on, they have dug over the ground; they have cut up the thorns; they have upcycled the clothes; they have planned, and encouraged, and they have given the different gifts that they possess, using all their skills and resources, and coming together as community to help families that are in desperate need on their doorstep. This project will transform lives’. The students involved in the GrowBabyGrow project were divided into four groups. While some worked to level the ground or to remove thorns and debris, others up-cycled clothes to create rugs and canopies for babies. Meanwhile, a Media team, recorded the process. Here is their story, in their own words: ‘A Safer and More Inclusive Space for All’ – the GrowBabyGrow Project, told by the Wellington Media Team.

The GrowBabyGrow Project was an offshoot of the Vineyard Church charity’s GrowBaby Project, which began in March 2012 and aims to help families in need with baby supplies, such as clothes or nappies. The actual GrowBabyGrow project is in its second year, with one plot having already been completed and the other for us to help with, and was inspired by the BBC documentary ‘Sister Rita to the Rescue’ (about a nun who ran a foodbank and provided ‘a hand up, not a hand out’ by showing people how to grow their own food). An example of who is benefitting from this project is a young girl called Isla, whose father was killed in a car accident, and who now comes to the allotment daily with her mother to relax and enjoy the outdoors. It also helps the parents educate their children about healthy produce and where it comes from. Our project space began as a derelict and overgrown plot of land which we aimed to convert into a safe and fun space in which young children can play whilst their parents work in the allotment. However, there was an issue regarding the safety of the area which we had to address: we knew that the allotment was very important to the local community as a place of leisure, and in which to learn new skills: gardening and growing vegetables to sustain a healthy diet. One of the pastors at the Vineyard Church described how much such an experience can ‘improve confidence and wellbeing’. We therefore had to make sure their children were visible and secure so that the adults didn’t have to worry about them and could instead make the most of their time working on the allotment. We initially split into four groups: Muscles & Maths, Media, Design & Layout, and Decoration. Each of these groups contributed towards different areas of the project and, over the course of the seven weeks, many improvements to the area have been made. The first week consisted of planning our future amendments to the area, which were overseen by the Design & Layout team, following a visit to the site, where we met the Vineyard Church team and gathered their ideas about transforming the allotment. Weeks two and three consisted of preliminary clearing of the site by moving rubbish and excess debris from the area, carried out by the Muscles & Maths group. Meanwhile, the Media team interviewed the key leadership figures of the Vineyard Church and put together Twitter feeds for Wellington to raise awareness for our project. By weeks four and five, we had sourced the materials to start making the path and improved the fencing, whilst the Decoration team used the new materials to create a safe and colourful shelter for the children. The last two weeks of the project were dedicated to making final touches to the work done so far, ensuring that the initial aims of safety and the needs of the allotment users were met. In future, Vineyard Church have applied for funds for a winter shelter, so they can continue growing throughout the winter months.