Whether by volunteering, or branching out on our own, we all want to make a difference in our communities and to our own lives. Welcome to the first in a series of Grownups articles designed to help you do just this!
Garden to Table
One of the best things about attaining ‘Grown-up status’ is we often have more time to ‘make a difference’ in our community. Suddenly, we’re (at last) available to work with organisations we’ve admired for years but have never been able to contribute to in a hands-on way. With this opportunity comes the enjoyment of meeting new friends, and socialising with a completely new group of like-minded companions.
Garden-to-Table is a charitable trust that not only welcomes ‘grown-ups’ to ‘make a difference’ – it relies on them! The organisation, which runs the length and breadth of New Zealand, works in primary schools who invite them in, and aims to arm kiwi kids with the knowledge and skills to grow healthy, fresh food, and then transform it into delicious meals. Many children take these important skills back into their own homes.
With the assistance of pupils and volunteer-adults, Garden to Table schools establish (or make use of already existing) growing, cooking and dining spaces. As long as something is being grown by children, and being harvested and prepared as part of a meal, Garden to Table is working!
If you’re thinking you have to be a gardener (or an expert in the kitchen) to help out with Garden to Table, nothing could be further from the truth! While you may have these skills (in which case they will be warmly welcomed), each school’s garden and kitchen teams are led by a specialist. This means, if you arrive without skills, you can enjoy learning alongside the children you will be working with!
Many volunteers get nervous at the idea of ‘managing’ children, but the good news is, teachers are always involved in the sessions and because children are ‘hands-on’, they are inevitably highly engaged with their activities.
If you enjoy young people, and don’t have them in your life as neighbours or grandies, Garden-to-Table is also an opportunity to engage, one-to-one with children as you work alongside them. You’ll get to sit down and chat with them in a leisurely way when you enjoy a meal together (volunteers are encouraged to stay on for the shared meal at the conclusion of sessions). This building of relationship often extends out into the community when you meet these same students in town, and they give you a friendly wave or stop to introduce you to a family member.
Garden to Table is well supported by a professional team of trained co-ordinators, so not only are you never ‘on your own’ with your school and its garden, your volunteer group is also well-anchored via advice and resources that are just an email, phone call, or web-search away.
You can read more about Garden to Table by checking out how it is working at rural Bay of Plenty’s Oropi School. Headed by Garden to Table garden specialist, Heron Ricard, the programme boasts it’s own bee hive and hens, and has twice been recognised in Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust’s community awards. One of these was a ‘People’s Choice’ award. As the school’s principal Andrew King says, this has been “Really affirming of the Garden to Table programme and what it means – it’s obviously valued highly in the community.”
If you would like to make a difference in your community, head to Garden to Table’s informative website: gardentotable.org.nz . It walks you through the programme in further detail, and provides you with the information you need to decide if volunteering for this valuable cause is right for you. There’s also a helpful map which will point out a Garden to Table school closest to you. With spring just around the corner, there’s never been a better time to get involved!