We bring together individuals experiencing disadvantage or discrimination to enable them to change their lives and to enhance the communities in which they live. This is done by providing weekly volunteering sessions, which, although open to all, target people experiencing social exclusion.
BGC has referrals from a wide range of health and social agencies in Edinburgh. We have worked with the homeless, young people at risk, the long-term unemployed, the elderly, those in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, ethnic minorities, survivors of abuse, and people with learning support needs. Open volunteering sessions are socially inclusive, promote equality, and teach growing, cooking and related outdoor skills. People who would not otherwise have met, get the chance to come together and share in these rich communal experiences. Sessions take place each Tuesday and Thursday between 10am and 4pm at our base at the Bridgend Community Allotments. All sessions are supervised by skilled professionals who are trained in horticulture and community development.
Volunteers only undertake tasks with which they feel comfortable. These might include weeding, sowing seeds, constructing raised beds and making vegetable soup. Every session features a communal lunch that uses produce grown on site. These friendly lunches provide a warm and welcoming place for people to come together and share stories. Volunteers can take home the fresh produce they have grown and use them to make healthy meals. They may also take home plants which can be grown in their own porches, window sills or gardens.
We have created a supportive and caring environment in which everyone contributes in a way that meets their needs: All contributions are respected and valued. For many people, the Open volunteering sessions are used as a springboard for progression to training or employment.
We are grateful to Lloyds TSB and City of Edinburgh Council for making a financial contribution to supporting these sessions. Some recent quotes from participants demonstrate the impact of the Open volunteering initiative.
- “I feel safe here and, for the first time, like I belong.”
- “I had never heard of kale until I came to Bridgend and just used to open a tin, but now I have made my own vegetable soup.”
- “Not being able to work was hard. I just lost all my self-respect. I didn’t want to go outside, but coming here has changed that. I feel I am doing something worthwhile.”
Sarah, from the Volunteer Centre Edinburgh, explained how for one of her participants, “The difference is just amazing. He looks us in the eye and talks with pride about what he is doing at Bridgend. It is no exaggeration to say he is a different person”.
The following true stories illustrate the circumstances of some of the people who attend the Open volunteering sessions. Their names have been changed.
Pete is on disability benefits and has slight learning difficulties. His day at Bridgend gives him a structure and purpose to his life. He refers to it as his “job” and, as a result of coming to Bridgend, he attended an accredited training course and has started to volunteer at other projects. Pete’s diet has improved markedly and he now grows vegetables in his mother’s garden.
Mark lives with his grandmother and has been involved with Children’s Hearings since he was 10. He has been involved in lots of different projects and activities, but he always stopped going after a few weeks. He has now been coming to Bridgend for seven months — a record for him. Pete has taken him under his wing and is his “buddy”. Mark didn’t attend school regularly and left without any qualifications. He says “I like it here. I would like to grow and make things for a job”.
Frances came over from Poland to live with his son. Frances suffers from depression and wouldn’t leave the house. He used to be a gardener, so his son found out about the Tuesday sessions from the Local Area Co-ordination Team and brought him to Bridgend for a visit. At first he needed a family friend to come and interpret, as his English was limited. While his English is still basic, he is able to make himself understood and even hold very limited conversations — usually involving gestures and concerning football. Everyone has accepted him and he is able to use his gardening skills.
To come to one of our sessions or to bring along a relative or client, please contact us.