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News article

Green light for refugee allotment project funding

Published: 30 April 2021

  •   Community
People outside at allotment garden holding produce

York St John staff and students have been working in association with Refugee Action York to provide community allotment spaces for refugees. 

Jointly led by Fiona Howlett, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, and Dr Hannah Spring, Senior Lecturer in Research and Evidence-Based Practice at York St John University, the project transformed a disused allotment on Haxby Road in York into a beautiful space ready for planting and growing.

At the heart of the project is the building of relationships, integrating refugees into the York community and providing meaningful activity.

Extra funding has just been awarded from the Growing Green Spaces Fund towards travel costs to enable refugee allotmenteers to get to and from the site on a regular basis. Transport was identified as a barrier, and so the funding will meet this need head on. Funds will also contribute to garden centre visits and sharing of cooked food grown at the allotment.  

Dr Hannah Spring said: “We welcome this additional funding and the opportunity to continue this meaningful work. We have already seen relationships building as the allotment community welcomed project users into a WhatsApp group, offering seed exchange, equipment and advice.

“For refugees, growing food and flowers can also help them connect with their own heritage through the growing of culturally relevant foods. It can also help to develop personal independence away from statutory services and begin to sustain relationships within the community.”

Fiona Howlett said: “We hope that the longer-term future of the project will help build sustainability and help to forge relationships between the refugees and the allotment community.”

The project is not only nurturing seeds of friendship, but allowing growth for York St John University students. It provides volunteer opportunities for students, particularly Occupational Therapy Society members.  

Work with asylum seekers and refugees over six years was instrumental in gaining University of sanctuary status.

Find out more about the project and York St John’s wider social inclusion work as part of its Institute of Social Justice.

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