Polish community workers. Chinese teachers. Volunteers from
Brazil to Taiwan, South Korea to Central Europe. The forest garden is a United Nations melting pot.
For the past three years Concordia have been working with us and Moulsecoomb Primary School. Francesca Corney explained: “Concordia is a charity committed to international volunteering as a means to promoting intercultural understanding and peace. For nearly 70 years we have provided volunteering and work opportunities overseas and here in the UK. Every year we run over 20 projects including conservation work, supporting children’s play schemes and summer camps, helping to run festivals and working with adults with learning difficulties. This July nine international volunteers helped at both Moulsecoomb Primary school and Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and Wildlife Project for two weeks. The volunteers came from Turkey, Germany, France, Argentina, and the Czech Republic.”
Its great having a group of dedicated motivated volunteers around for a couple of weeks to really get stuck into jobs. In those 3 years Concordia volunteers have cleared and flattened an area in the woods that became home to our bee hive; built a bee garden and this year weeded the bee area, raspberry garden and started laying a path.
Staying at Moulsecoomb Primary they also helped maintain the extensive school grounds and do the odd jobs, but also have the opportunity to be in lessons and help the teachers. One of their first tasks is getting up in the school assembly and saying where they are from and a bit about their country. Guess what the Argentinean got the children excited about?
At the end of the session the international volunteers fed back with comments like “I learnt a lot from all of the young people from different cultures in Europe and their needs and aspirations. I learnt many things about gardening and many more about the social and economical situations of places like Moulsecoomb” and “Rewarding experience, a good way to learn how to be more open minded”
In July Brighton University organised a visit by Chinese trainee teachers to the forest garden. After visiting one of the Chinese students wrote to us “What an unforgettable day in my short term training course in Brighton University. Because today I experienced something really inspiring – Forest Garden. Warren gave us a detailed introduction about the project, but also brought in a lot of vivid teaching sources. His patience with the students impressed me a lot. Above all, the philosophy behind the project is magnificent. It will benefit a lot of students like Dan, who came and talked to us at the end of the activity. Allow me to show my great respect to all the people involved. Best wishes!” 15 Chinese students then visited Moulsecoomb Primary during the schools Heritage and Environment Festival. They were also suitably impressed. Li said “I am lucky to have the opportunity to visit Moulsecoomb Primary school during the 3-day festival. It’s a new kind education for me. In China, we pay more attention to knowledge and examination, so mostly the students have to listen to the teacher and try to remember and understand in class. But here the students have more chance to experience, learning by doing it. I think that’s interesting and effective. On the other hand, many teachers, helpers and volunteers organized various activities to attract the students, that’s not only interesting but be helpful to their studies in class. So I think they are responsible and creative to come up with so many good ideas. I admire and respect them. Thank you for giving us such an opportunity.”
For the pupils these are priceless lessons and opportunities to meet people from across the world. For people from other countries it gives opportunities to meet people off the tourist trail and take back ideas to their where they live. But best of all these international exchanges; meeting people, working together, are the most effective way to break down barriers and challenge prejudices.