A number of Community Gardens in Galway City have set about putting a smile on the face of older members of our communities by creating colourful window boxes filled with wondrous flowers grown across their diverse network of locations.
“The teams in the gardens came together in the first few days of June to volunteer their time to recognise that in giving, we are also adding to our sense of community. A box of flowers will bring a smile to the face of all our older friends,” said John Cunningham, Chair of Galway Contact, which was one of the groups that arranged the delivery of these unique gifts.
Let’s Get Galway Growing, supported by Galway City Partnership, is made up of several Community Gardens around Galway City. These are both gardens based in geographical communities and communities of interest. The gardens are: Ballinfoile Mór Organic Community Garden, Ballybane Organic Community Garden, Merlin Woods Community Garden, Salthill Community Garden, Westside Community Garden, Cope (Homeless Services ), Third Space and The Eglinton Community Garden (Direct Provision Hostel ).
Mayor Mike Cubbard visited the Ballybane Communbity Garden last week and praised the initiative and energy of the groups using it.
“I was delighted to visit this little oasis in the heart of Ballybane, which once you pass the gate, it opens up into a brilliant and busy hub of activity.
“All the Community Gardens been crucial for their local communities throughout these testing times as they have allowed locals to take up a new pastime in the safe environs of the outdoors,” he said.
During the last year, the gardens have become more than a place where people grow local produce in a community setting. They provided a space for people to meet in a safe outside environment. Numbers were at times limited due to restrictions, but volunteers maintained these spaces for their communities.
“To be able to meet again in the garden and just have a good chat with each other was lovely,” said Bernie Smith from Westside Community Garden.
“At times this was a single volunteer going in to weed a patch and do some garden upkeep but the gardens, although at times shut to the public, were still growing in response to the seasons,” said Bernie.
As we are looking at the further opening up of our communities, the community gardens have widened their focus. They have become places where events can happen, and people can gather in safe outside spaces.
We are increasingly recognising that both our emotional and mental well-being is linked to a healthy body. The community gardens provide a space for people to come together socially as what better way to weed, seed and watch plants grow than with the incentive of a cuppa afterwards, say the organisers.
The community gardens are made up of volunteers who give up their time to become involved in several ways. Last week, through Let’s Get Galway Growing, several members of the community gardens came together to carry out the Window Box initiative. This initiative took the form of making up 200 window boxes for older and more vulnerable members of Galway city.
A smaller initiative took place in 2020 and it was so well received that the numbers were increased as were the participating gardens.
Ballinfoile and Merlin Woods also welcomed young people from Foróige Youth Projects.
‘This was a great opportunity for young people to meet outside and take part in this wonderful initiative,” said Marie Sheridan Ballinfoile Mór Organic Community Garden. “The gardens were delighted to have been able to build these window boxes for members of our community.”
The gardens has provided a space for people to relax and take a bit of time out. In reaching out to the community, the groups hope that more people will become aware of their existence. They hope that the use of them as a resource will increase in imaginative and new ways.
“Although we are near a busy road in a built-up area, there is a sense of an oasis of calm.” said Gerry Folan and Deirdre Dooley, of Ballybane Community Garden. “As people are on their walks in their local areas, more people have become aware of their community gardens during lockdown.”
Ballybane Community Garden got an extra surprise last Thursday when Mayor Mike Cubbard dropped by to see for himself what was going on. He was surprised to receive an early crop of potatoes from Ballybane volunteer Bridie Canavan.
The gardens are organised and run by local people for their local communities. The window boxes were distributed locally by the Community Gardai, Galway Contact, ARD Family Resource Centre, members of the Ballinfoile Community Garden and the TUS Team in Galway City Partnership.
Funding for the Window Box initiative was provided by Galway City Council, Covid-19 Emergency Fund, and Galway City Partnership.
Recipients of the wider boxes were referred by COPE Galway, Active Retirement Groups, Galway Contact, Age Action, St Vincent de Paul, Local Community and Family Resource Centres and members of community groups across the city.