Volunteering at Surrey Docks Farm - RSA

Volunteering at Surrey Docks Farm

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Last week several RSA colleagues volunteered at Surrey Docks Farm. I asked Anna Leikkari who organised the day to tell us more -

"Last Friday the RSA organised its first ever Volunteering Day on Surrey Docks Farm in South East London.

The idea of the day was not only to make a positive and hands-on difference in the city of London in a small but scalable way, but to build team spirit and shared purposes across the organisation and unite Fellows with other Fellows and like-minded people, making new connections and potentially come up with ideas for new networking initiatives and projects (see current ones on the RSA Networks platform).

We picked Surrey Docks Farm as our project site as it has been recognised as one of the most innovative and successful city farm education projects in England, and was in great need of voluntary help as it relies on voluntary sector grants and donations, and does not employ many full-time staff.

The day was brilliant. 10 RSA staff and 13 Fellows arrived at the farm at 10.00 am and after a thorough briefing we divided ourselves into three groups and set to work.

The projects we were given were varied: carrying and organising heavy concrete slabs, wooden beams and bricks, clearing a large shed for bee keeping materials and the grounds free of rubbish and broken equipment and materilas, filling a large skip, turning hard ground around for planting vegetables and flowers, weeding a massively overgrown children's storytelling area... and many other jobs that, at the end of the day, had visibly transformed the site. The farm manager said we were the best volunteering group she has ever had and was extremely pleased with the results!

Everyone who participated on the day said they would love to do it again and would love to see it become a regular occurrence. It was a great way to get Fellows and Staff together and some of the conversations we had during the day and afterwards in the Wibbley Wobbly riverboat pub were truly inspiring.

Personally, I felt elated at the end of the day as I think we had really made a difference on site, thus affecting many lives – especially those of children and young adults with learning disabilities who regularly come to the farm to learn about sustainability, the environment and farm animals. My most vivid memories will be of Jonathan (Deputy Director, Programme) lifting gigantic concrete slabs off the ground with a wrecking bar, of Rosie (Ideas Assistant) dancing her way through the site with a bee-keeper dummy and of all the happy faces of the volunteers when they were giggling at the little piglets and kid goats.

The fact that everyone was already talking about the "next RSA volunteering day" halfway through the day told me that it was a success and that we should do it again soon.

A massive vote of thanks to William Wong who, as a Fellow and colleague helped organise the day!"

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  • A very well organised and truly rewarding day. A big thank you to Anne, William and all at Surrey Docks Farm.

  • Thanks Dan! I have had so many positive e-mails from all the volunteers who participated, with suggestions for future volunteering days and projects - it was well worth the effort!

  • I also wanted to add Barbara Herridge's comment that Vince Gready was definitely voted as the man of the match for his spectacularly neat skip loading and brick piling! Gordon (McHarg III) did also an amazing job organising the shed into a whole new space!

    One more thanks to everyone who came.

  • Friday at Surey Docks was a very well organised and thoroughly worthwhile day. Thank you to Anna and the team for organising it. It was also a very good illustration of the magical (and pro-social) range of outcomes of practical green volunteering including not just the direct physical outputs, important in themselves, but the cohesive impact of people working together and the increased personal awareness of and sense of responsibility for the environment that stays with green volunteers - and health benefits for us all too. For those interested in seeing how these pro-social impacts can actually be measured, BTCV has just (today) published "Inspiring People, Improving Places - positive impact and behavioural change through environmental volunteering" which will be available on www.btcv.org - together with a film starring Sir David Attenborough!

  • Thank you for your constructive comments Rupert! And I will keep a close eye on BTCV's website!

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