This year at Coventry the ParliaMentors team was a diverse group of students; Siu Wan, Khadija Ghias, Saacid Amin, Ella Ferron and Sam Woods, have been working to resolve some of Coventry’s biggest problems through their Social Action project, Breaking Barriers Growing Green. Aware of the problems of division both between and within students and local residents in Coventry the team sought to address the issue through a unique solution, a community allotment. The team aimed to create a new set of community allotments that would bring people together who wouldn’t ordinarily meet. They also hoped that an allotment would support people to get more physical exercise and eat healthier fresher foods thus tackling the obesity crisis at the same time as promoting community cohesion.
“Our project to unite people with the tool of gardening has taught me to celebrate diversity of all ages, colours and mindsets, in order to truly enjoy the ‘fruits’ this world has to offer us!” ~ Khadija Ghias
In January work began on the allotment site in Keresley, a location chosen to bring students out of the university ‘bubble’ and into the broader city. The most obvious challenge was the initial state of disrepair of the allotment site, which couldn’t possibly have been cleared by the team and volunteers alone, but through intelligent uses of local partners the team quickly resolved this problem. With the help of the Probation Service’s Community Payback Team the site was cleared and ready for tending by volunteers by the end of January. In the process a new relationship was formed between the All
otment Management and the Community Payback Team that will last into the future. Throughout February volunteer sessions were held weekly involving fence-laying, seed-sowing and tree-planting and the site steadily became ready to harvest later this year.
Finally all the hard work paid off and on the 25th March at a special launch event the BBGG allotment was opened to the public. With special guests including the Lord Mayor of Coventry and Chris White MP, the launch was attended by a diverse range of students and residents with many expressing their desire to support the project into the future. Enactus Coventry also attended and have partnered with the team to agree to continue to support the allotment into the future and have plans to run employability workshops at the site.
All together, the Coventry team have set up an incredible project that seems certain to have an impact on the relationship between Coventry students and residents for years to come. With the kind support of their mentor Chris White MP the team have shown what an incredibly positive impact students can have on their local areas and we are certain the experience will stay with the ParliaMentors for many years to come.
“Social action is the way forward for our communities through working together towards a common shared vision. Our project has showed that anything is possible!” ~ Siu Wan