The Apna IIaaka (Our Neighbourhood) project
Launched in April 2018, The Apna IIaaka (Our Neighbourhood) project is delivered by a partnership between Petrus Incredible Edible Rochdale (PIER) - a community horticulture project run by a local homelessness service Petrus Community - and Apna Ghar - a day centre for South Asian elders in the local community - run by Kashmir Youth Project (KYP) in Rochdale.
It utilises the PIER community allotment, to bring together two separate groups who were at risk of social isolation, and experiencing poor health and wellbeing – The local homeless community, and vulnerable people at risk of homelessness (supported by Petrus), and the women of Pakistani, Kashmiri and Bangladeshi origin who attend the elders group at KYP. The project also involved young people engaged with the Princes Trust, working on the allotment as part of their programme, and adding an intergenerational dynamic.
These two groups bring together their knowledge and ability to work on the allotment, with the Petrus clients providing physical work and gardening expertise, and KYP’s Apna Ghar Day Centre group providing knowledge and culinary skills.
Bringing these communities with shared common interest and knowledge together helped to dispel cultural barriers and to overcome preconceived ideas about each other’s culture, beliefs and life experiences. Members of the two community groups were able to broaden their idea of what ‘people like me’ meant to them, and thus broke down barriers between people they perceived to be different.
Identifying a need for the project:
- Social Isolation: The Petrus Community were seeking to connect their client group of homeless men with communities in Rochdale, whilst the Apna Ghar Day Centre were looking for a new project to reduce levels of social isolation of the elders they supported, and to improve their physical and mental wellbeing. Both organisations felt that the PIER allotment offered an ideal resource for a joint partnership project.
- Poor health and wellbeing: The therapeutic value of gardening in improving mental health, reducing feelings of isolation or exclusion, improving physical health and acquiring new skills have long been recognised to benefit individuals.
- Retaining cultural identity: At risk of losing aspects of their cultural identity due to changes in food culture and society, the elders of the Apna Ghar Day Centre thought that sharing knowledge about natural herb remedies was a way to pass knowledge onto younger generations and other cultures.
Petrus Community and KYP were able to draw upon their close organisational working relationships, their geographic location, as well as their in-depth knowledge of the interests and skills of their respective client groups to create an intergenerational project based around a common interest.
The project encompassed a wide range of interest areas including history, cultural and culinary traditions, arts and crafts as well as hands on gardening activities ensuring accessibility.
The project captured interest of whole local community in ways well beyond the original scope of the project. Small, unplanned activities, such as the emergence of a friendly garlic growing competition between members of the two groups illustrate the friendships that have been formed, and are a valuable legacy of the project.
As well as bringing together two separate groups, the project has transformed an unloved space into a thriving community hub. The community allotment and garden which emerged from the project has provided a colourful, thriving, communal space that is used by many members of the local community.
The confidence, skills, experiences and friendships developed between participants have given people a sense of purpose, pride and achievement, not least because their efforts won a number of regional and national awards including the North West in Bloom Awards, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and Rochdale in Bloom.
The project has also secured media coverage in the RHS’s ‘Grassroots’ and ‘The Garden’ magazines and have recently secured an invitation to exhibit a garden at the Tatton Flower Show in July 2019.