Community activities continue to be popular and to provide some pleasure and purpose during this difficult time.
The library service supplied us with packs of books and activities for families and these have been distributed by volunteers and case-workers. The Mercury theatre asked us to take part in their production of short videos related to such things as Boudica’s sacking of Colchester and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star being written in Colchester. These will be shown on their social media platforms during Heritage Week and I hope some of you will look out for our contribution on Boudica which will be fronted by an Iraqui community member and his son. This week a small group of migrants from our community resumed discussions with First Site on the plans for the exhibition ‘My Name is not Refugee’, which should be mounted in October.
The most active projects of course have been the small group Forest Schools in High Woods, allowed by the council, and the Together we Grow project.
There has been a forest school every week since the end of May and on Aug 18th 2 families with 2 children each met with Tim, the leader, and 3 of us volunteers for a perfect Forest School. We set up in fine, dry weather with dappled sun coming through the trees. Setting up involved the Tippy Tap and 2 tarpaulin shelters, hammock, rope swing and fire area. We played, talked and ate lunch and the children enjoyed getting the fire going for toasting halal marshmallows. Usually the toasting is the highlight but as we sat there around the fire the thunder started to roll and the leaves of the trees to rustle and then the skies opened. We rushed to the shelter of the tarpaulins and everyone loved this final act of nature! Everyone laughed, the children sang and Richard and Tim were kept busy tipping water off the sagging tarps. Then as the rain eased Philip arrived with his umbrella to take one of the families back to their home. It was considered a truly enjoyable experience.
The Together We Grow project has had another communal gathering at the Big Garden in High Woods and in the middle of August 7 children got involved with their parents in digging potatoes, picking tomatoes and herbs, watering plants and trying the ripening fruit.
Two of the women were delighted to see vine leaves growing and gave some of the Big Garden volunteers insructions in how to make Dolma. Potatoes have also been harvested by growers at home and proud growers of Crown Prince squash have now got to wait patiently for them to be harvested in October.
Dayani has not only learnt about allotments but secured one from the council, started work on it and made it productive already. It has brought back memories of her grandparents small-holding and fruit trees in Sri Lanka – now she wants chickens!
And Hurya, having had a growing bed constructed in her front garden set up her irrigation system before she took her children to visit relatives. A neighbour also said she would keep an eye on her plants, a welcome sign of her becoming part of her neighbourhood.
We are in the process of discussing how this project can be continued into the next 12 months and feel very excited at the prospect. Working outdoors and being in touch with nature is not only educational for the children but fits with the therapeutic needs of so many of our clients and us all.
As we emerge into a greater sense of normality we hope that more of you will be able to get involved in our community activities.
Written by Elizabeth Curry
Community and Volunteer Coordinator