Celebrating our Volunteers

Volunteers are the heart and soul of our garden. From nurturing plants to supporting our community programmes and events, their hard work creates a sanctuary of beauty and tranquillity for everyone to enjoy. In recognition of Volunteers’ Week 2023, we would like to share some of their stories and journey at The Hidden Gardens.

Greenthumbs Tam

Tam found out about volunteering at The Hidden Gardens through his support worker Stevie at the Mungo Foundation. Motivated by a recent family bereavement, he sought a positive change in his life and the opportunity to meet new people. Despite health challenges, Tam engages weekly in various gardening tasks, excelling in composting. He appreciates the supportive atmosphere, getting to meet people, the chance to learn and share skills, and the joy of taking home volunteer-grown produce. Tam’s highlight was attending an award event where The Hidden Gardens won recognition for inclusive volunteering. “The Hidden Gardens is like a big family to me” says Tam, “I wish I had discovered it earlier – since starting here, I’ve never looked back”!

Sylvia’s Culinary Journeys

Cultural Cookery has been a staple of the Hidden Gardens. Running since 2007, this programme has allowed us to create a space for women from all backgrounds to share recipes and their love for cooking, socialise and improve their skills. One of them was Sylvia, who after participating in the class decided to join us as a class volunteer.

Sylvia had dreams of becoming a chef, and entered a competition for a scholarship in Europe, but had to drop out to support her family. Years after, Cultural Cookery came as an opportunity for her to develop her cooking skills to the next level. “The class allowed me to meet new people, make friends, taste food from all around the world and educate my palette! My cupboards are now full of new ingredients, and I feel more adventurous, trying out new recipes and sharing my creations with friends and family”. Sylvia’s new go-to recipes now include pakoras and Malaysian corn fritters. “I’ve learned a lot in this class. From handy tips like how to cut an onion without crying buckets, to important lessons about food hygiene. Most importantly though, the class gave me the confidence to mix with people again”.

Gary and his Camera

The COVID pandemic and lockdown had a significant impact on many people’s mental health and wellbeing, increasing anxiety levels, isolation and exacerbating existing mental health conditions. Our Men’s Group volunteer Gary, was no exception. Suffering the consequences of a terrible accident he had before the pandemic, lockdown caused his mental health to take a turn for the worse. When he joined our group for the first time in 2022, he was pleasantly surprised by how friendly and welcoming everyone was: “After being lonely for a while, I really enjoyed the opportunity to be with other people. In this group, conversation doesn’t feel forced, grows naturally out of doing things. That’s what I enjoy the most”.

As time goes by, Gary has taken a more active role in our group, becoming our volunteer photographer, documenting important moments of the group with his camera. You might have seen some of his cracking shots have been featured in our social media posts! Recently, he also attended a photography and mapping course as part of the Gallant Green Map Photo Project, and his photos were exhibited at The Hidden Gardens. Since joining the Men’s Group, Gary’s started going to a writers’ group. He also aspires to start a new photo blog and deliver a photography and writing workshop to the Men’s Group in Autumn!

Volunteering at The Hidden Gardens

If you would like to support our work and take up a new activity, you are welcome to join our team of volunteers. You can find more information about our current volunteering opportunities at our website or by emailing: andrea@thehiddengardens.org.uk.