Hope Therapeutic Garden project began in 2008 when Hope Housing took on several houses around Birmingham for destitute asylum seekers. One of these houses was located in Sparkbrook near where the founder, Mary Carroll, was at that time holding a health ‘drop in’ session at Azadi House. After the drop in, Mary visited the Hope Housing project and spoke to some of the residents. She found out that one of the residents had been called names spat on by a neighbour. Mary felt lead to find a way to offer support to these women.
Mary had been considering setting up a therapeutic garden, a place where people from community who were marginalised by the rest of society because of ethnicity, disability or status could come and have a cup of tea, chat, relax, and see the love of Christ in action.
Up until this point, the garden at this particular 'Hope House' in Sparkbrook was wild and uncared for This seemed to provide the perfect opportunity and canvas for this new project: And so Hope Garden was born.
Mary said about this venture "I have long believed that growing and harvesting is a healing practice, and an opportunity to chat and relax in an open space with others"
The first people to attend Hope Garden were residents of Hope House and some of those who attended the recent health check drop-in at Azadi House.
Twelve years later, some of the early participants attend the Garden, while many others have come and gone. Some participants either live or have lived in the house, some have disabilities and many suffer from poor mental health.
One of the participants once wrote a poem saying that:
'Hope Garden was better than going to the doctor’s surgery as you would receive both physical and mental nourishment.'
Another participant said that:
"When I am get off the bus to come to the garden I am usually singing ‘I’m on Top Of The World’ by the Carpenters as that is how it made her feel!"
Over the years Hope Garden team have organised retreats and days outfor the participents to places like; the House of the Open Door Retreat Centre in the Cotswolds, Belmont Abbey, Bridgnorth, the Lickey Hills, the Malvern Hills, Cannon Hill Park, Sutton Coldfield Park, David Austen Rose Garden, and even dared to challenge our British weather by organising a camping trip .
We have an annual summer BBQ where we invite current and past participants, as well as supporters and volunteers. This BBQ has been a highlight of the Garden project for many years, as it not only allows its members to share the harvest of things we have grown, but also to reminisce about another year of journeying together. It is an opportunity to thank God for the beauty of creation, and the abundant love of God for all of us through our bonds of friendship. The group also celebrates birthdays and special days throughout the year such as 'World Africa Day' where we learn about the traditions and culture of the specific country or history of the celebration. We also orgainise an 'Easter Egg Hunt' and Christmas celebrations for Garden participants which has been held at a variety of locations over the years.
Over the years, these events and the venues we used have thrown up their fair share of challenges, whether we have had to adapt some activities to be more enegetic because of heating failure,or creating last minute meal for a hungry family of five who arrived late to an event. However,we continue to be thankful to God for providing incredible volunteers like (Nathalie ,Mauricio who are both Columban Missionaries) and Pauline,who has occasionally driven a mini-bus on loan from a local scout group for our trips. .
Without the support of the handful of committed volunteers we have, who always go the extra mile for our participants, things like delivering food, to one of the participants in need, or helping out with advice and form filling would siply not be possible. If you feel this is something you would like to be involved in, please get in touch.
In addition to our committed volunteers, fundraising has also been a struggle at times and we are very grateful for the support of organisations including, Tesco , Asda and Waitrose and a host of charitable trust funds . Hope Garden operates under the charity umbrella of Azadi Trust and their support has been invaluable over the years, in particular that of trustees Liz ,Mike and Eve in a myriad of ways from conflict resolution and sourcing resources for our participants.
Those who participate in Hope Garden have been able to learn many new skills, like composting, grafting, vegetable growing. Links have also been made with Ryton Organic Gardens where we participated in an exciting project called Growing From Your Roots which helped us understand a lot about each others heritage, gardening history, as well as learning how grow more exotic crops in the UK.