Guardian Spotlight: Green fingered Susanna

Since joining Dot Dot Dot as a property guardian in North London earlier this year Susanna has volunteered over 60 hours using her green skills to support a homeless hostel in Walthamstow, as well as nurturing the plant nursery at a food growing cooperative on the edge of London. 

Susanna told us a bit about her different roles, what she loves most about the projects and the best bits for her about volunteering in the great outdoors…

Bug hotels made from terracotta pots, painted and filled by the service users. This is one way of encouraging insect predators to make a home in the garden.

Bug hotels made from terracotta pots, painted and filled by the service users. This is one way of encouraging insect predators to make a home in the garden.

speech mark1SHP is a London-wide charity originally established by a group of homeless people in 1975.  Today, SHP supports some of London’s most vulnerable people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, through the provision of supported housing and community-based support services. The Garden Project I lead on site aims to support the service users who are keen to get outside and garden, and give them an opportunity to grow food, cultivate and make their space attractive for animals and people alike.

As Garden Project Worker my role is to provide weekly sessions to get service users involved in gardening and planning activities centred around the garden; come rain or shine we will be outside tending to the beds! Some of the activities we have done so far include clearing the garden space, establishing new beds for food growing using recycled materials, planting bulbs, sowing seeds, and making bug hotels. As these people are already faced with much instability in their lives, these sessions aim to give purpose to increase confidence. As well, I hope to teach them the skills necessary to go out and grow for themselves one day.   At the moment we have broad beans coming up strong, and the tomatoes sown only last week have already germinated!  

Susanna also volunteers for OrganicLea…

speech mark1I also volunteer regularly at OrganicLea, which is a workers cooperative, growing food on a 12 acre site on the edge of London. They have their own veg box scheme, a weekly market stall, and the organisation supports community gardens in the area. Their vision is to create a fair food system where power is taken away from corporations and put back into the hands of the people, to provide locally sourced organic food to communities. Organiclea provide people care, and make fair shares possible.

Hanging out in the apiary: making a hedge from willow

Hanging out in the apiary: making a hedge from willow

It is a great place to learn all sorts of new and unexpected skills.  I recently learnt how to mix cement and lay concrete- something I would never thought of doing before. This month we have been doing lots of mulching; layering the fruit trees, bushes and rhubarb with woodchip and council compost. We have been turning the compost, building beds with aluminium, making paths, working on the vineyard, planting trees…a wealth of activities exist and now that spring has officially begun and the peach trees have started to bud, the work will only continue to become more exciting and varied. Above all Organiclea is a place that nurtures people and creates communities that welcome anyone; it gives a sense of hope in a time when people feel more speech mark2and more disempowered over food systems and their impact in society. 

Best bits…

“The best bits about volunteering outdoors means I am constantly in touch with nature, which instantly makes me calm; I forget that I am in London and instead working in ancient woodland, with the whistling of the birds and swaying of trees as companions.”

Get involved:

  • Investigate volunteering opportunities with SHP via their website and Do–It.org
  • Find out more about volunteering at OrganicLea online, or drop in to one of their open days held at Hawkwood Community Plant Nursery on the last Sunday of each month 12pm – 4pm. Just show up and join in.

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