Growing Together

During lockdown, we have seen lots of examples of people doing small things to look after their wellbeing and feel connected to others. Local mutual aid groups have sprung up, neighbours have checked-in on each other, and many organisations have adapted or set up phone support lines to provide a listening ear. Though we might be more physically distant from our circle of friends and family, during this crisis, many neighbourhoods and communities have stepped in to provide support.

Mah Jabeen Bano has been part of a simple project to give out seed packs, instructions and compost for people to grow vegetables and plants for hanging baskets. Once they have been planted and grown, people are encouraged to find a public space so that they can be enjoyed by everyone in the community.

Marcus from the Active Communities Going Wild project explained ‘We gave out instructions and an envelope of seeds to Bano, who distributed the packs and compost to 20 houses. It went down really well and there are loads of plants ready for the planters on nearby locations.’

Bano is a well-connected member of the community. She has been part of Active Streets road closures, street cleans and gardening projects and is a walking group leader. She explained that she got involved because she wanted to give something back to her neighbours, who had helped clean the road and had been involved with street closures. She also hoped planting would help cheer people up who have been feeling low and stressed because of Covid-19. Gardening is a simple activity people can do from home, which research has shown has many benefits on overall mood and mental health. As Bano explained, it’s a small task which can ‘provide a bit of support so they don’t feel overloaded’.

Neighbours have been sharing photos of their growing progress and gardening tips in their community WhatsApp group. Bano explained that this group has also become a place for people to check-in with each other which ‘helps us still feel connected’. She said the group chat ‘gives people the opportunity to share their pictures and also to talk about their feelings’. This has become a way of socialising in a safe and friendly environment which allows people to share any issues and start to overcome problems and stress.

Planting using the seed kits has been a popular pastime which has had a really positive response. A member of Bano’s walking group said, ‘having this little project to distract me from the stress and work of lockdown has made me smile a lot’. Bano has received lots of calls asking for the starter kits and people have passed on lovely feedback. It has been a welcome distraction which has helped neighbours to stay in touch and feel connected to each other.

If you are interested in getting involved with planting or other nature activities, find out more about Active Communities Going Wild here, or visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/activecommunitiesgoingwild/.

Nina Conway
Author: Nina Conway