SILK & Tonbridge YW CA Volunteering Day at the Windmill Allotment Project Margate The Social Innovation Lab for Kent (SILK) recently took part in a joint volunteering day with the Tonbridge YWCA West Kent Young Women’s project, a charity working with young women living on a low income. Five mums and a dad and five children came on a volunteering day organised by SILK’s resident Gap Year placement. We chose to volunteer at the Windmill project for several reasons. Some of the mums from the YWCA met people from the Windmill project at a conference earlier this year and had hoped to visit. It was an opportunity for the SILK team to volunteer alongside the YWCA and together contribute towards a valuable community resource in Margate. The day began with lunch on the beach which was enjoyed by everyone. The weather was even surprisingly good! After a quick walk down to the sea we set off for the Windmill Project a few minutes away from Margate beach. The Windmill Project is a community allotment that was set up because residents wanted to grow their own food but didn’t necessarily have the space to do so. Volunteers from the community can work on the allotments, learn about growing food and can then take a share of the produce. Any excess produce is sold on a stall at the allotment, used by a community cafe or is sold via a local box scheme at the Sure Start Centre. The Project also involves schools through curriculum activities and runs activities during school holidays. Emphasis is on healthy eating, organic gardening and generally being green….there is even a compost toilet! Once at the project the families and SILK team picked some fruit and got to taste some new things; the children particularly enjoyed picking and trying the blackcurrants.
The SILK team weeded and watered the fruit trees and were also helped by some of the young women and their children. A lizard nearly ran up someone’s leg at one point! What we learned…….. Demetria: “Volunteering at the Windmill project was educational for me as I’ve never really taken notice of how vegetables grow and was very surprised to learn that potatoes have flowers! Taking part in a joint volunteering day with the young women from the YWCA was also positive and the experience taught me not to make assumptions about young mothers.” Sarah: “My favourite part of the day was watching people try things they hadn’t done before, whether that was the children picking and eating berries straight from the bushes, all of us learning about and tasting the types of flowers you can put in salads or some of the young women who were initially apprehensive joining in and helping with weeding and watering! I would recommend for others to join up for their volunteering days as I think it’s a really good opportunity for people to get to know each other in a fun, friendly, informal environment and to chat to and learn more about people we might not usually connect with in our day to day lives which can only be a good thing.” Emma: “SILK wanted to be involved in this volunteering day for several reasons: to give a group of families from the YWCA a day out to the Windmill Project and the beach in Margate, which they may not have been able to do otherwise; also to give some time to support what is a fantastic community-led food project providing support and opportunities for a whole range of people in Margate. I hope this SILK volunteering day will inspire other teams across KCC to think about how to volunteer alongside Kent residents in some of the less well known but exceedingly valuable community projects.” Sarah (YW CA): “It was a wonderful day the young women really appreciated being taken out. The children definitely learnt a lot and I think we have a few gardeners in the making!! Some of the young women that went would not usually have the opportunity to go to the beach or to see a project like the Windmill Project. I know they were pleased to get out of their usual routine and spend some time doing something different.” Lucy (YW CA): “The day was very inspirational and positive. All the kids loved it!”