In 2014 a small group of people started working on setting up the Together We Grow project. In the first 12 months we developed the aims of the project, agreed a constitution, set up the relevant policies (safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults, equal opportunities, etc – view them here), undertook risk assessments and started contacting organisations who are in regular contact with asylum seekers and refugees, set up a management committee with five people, got insurance cover for the project, created a Facebook page, opened a bank account, created a home page at Localgiving.com and started looking for possible grants.
The first visit of asylum seekers and refugees to Hebden Bridge and Blackshaw Head in Calderdale, West Yorkshire took place in May 2015 and since then we have had regular visits. By February 2016 over 70 asylum seekers from 12 different countries had attended, including their families. About half of those coming are children. Usually we have 30-35 asylum seekers coming each time.
The majority of the asylum seekers coming are from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Sudan but we also have some from Egypt, Chad, Palestine, Pakistan, Russia, etc. The majority of them are Muslims but some are of other faiths.
Together We Grow pays for the asylum seekers’ transport costs to come on these visits and provides them with lunch and refreshments. None of our 30 volunteers get paid for their help. The asylum seekers and refugees love to make the lunch and we have all shared some amazing meals which culminated in an Arabic cookery class in January with over 25 local residents joining in
By February 2016 we had received grants from Blackshaw Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and LUSH Charity Pot. Various individuals have also donated via our Localgiving.com page. This enables us to continue the project and to create new activities, such as cooking classes where asylum seekers teach local residents recipes from their home countries, then share the meal created and socialise.
Management committee members of Together We Grow are happy to give talks about our project. There is no similar project in Lancashire and Yorkshire. In Liverpool and Sheffield there are projects offering asylum seekers the opportunity to grow food.