A chance meeting on a stroll around Shadoxhurst led local resident Hannah Collison into becoming a Community Garden volunteer for the Pearce Coggan Foundation at Green Farm. As the charity looks to expand its team of supporters, Hannah explains how she spends her time and what she gets from volunteering.
“We've recently moved to Kent and having downsized, I’m in a position where I can reduce my hours; I have run my business full time for the last twenty years. I didn’t necessarily want to be any less busy, I just want to be ‘different busy’. My idea was initially to try and find a National Trust place, or somewhere like that. I always knew I wanted to do something outdoors and voluntary.
“On the second viewing of house we bought, we had a bit of free time so went for a walk down Duck Lane. It happened to be a Thursday and Green Farm had their pop-up coffee shop. We saw two ladies sat in deckchairs chatting, having a cup of tea, so we called in and bought some chutney and got chatting.
“Maryann greeted us and showed us the community garden and told me about the Pearce Coggan charity, which I hadn't heard of at all. I told her I wanted to do some voluntary work and she explained there’s two parts to the charity: the community garden and the children who come and camp with their families.
“What I really loved about it was that I could get stuck into something where Maryann needed help, but also that it could be all year around. With the kids camping you might help with putting up tents, or doing an activity with children, or just being there to support someone doing a nature walk. Then throughout the rest of the year you can work in the community garden”.
Hannah comes to Green Farm once a week for around three hours, rain or shine (although she points out that if you’re a fair weather volunteer that’s fine: “there's no pressure at all”). She has volunteered for a couple of months and in that time has met new people, learned about gardening and feels her confidence has been given a boost.
“Rachel [Green Farm’s Kitchen Garden Manager] has got lot of knowledge, which she is very free and willing to impart because the more she teaches you more independent you are with what you're doing. Now I understand how to grow my lettuces at home, how to prick out and how to prune and it’s made me start to look at You Tube tutorials on how to take cuttings.
“I've learned something, I'm meeting new people and I'm getting out away from the house for a few hours with no pressure. If all I manage to do is sew one batch of seeds then that's fine. This week I was weeding, shoring up the tomato plants and then picking lettuces and digging up onions to sell, which I've never done before.
“I'm using my time in a productive way and I am helping, but you know I'm getting a lot out of it mentally and physically. I didn't go into this to thinking ‘well I can make a difference’. It was more about what I could do with my time that is worthwhile.”
If, like Hannah, you have time to make a difference, the Pearce Coggan Foundation is seeking two or three volunteers to help with the community garden.
The produce from the garden is used to create nourishing meals for the families who take part in the camps organised by Outdoor People, one of the charities Pearce Coggan Foundation works with. It’s also sold at the weekly pop-up shop to raise money which supports the Foundation’s work to help people connect with nature.
If you would like to find out more about volunteering, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org