A Thousand hands

This term, the new project for our Youth division, named ‘A Thousand Hands’, started. The project gives the opportunity for young people from the borough of Islington to connect with, and make a difference to their local community by co-designing their own projects. This cohort of young people, who last term had taken part in our Generator Program, decided that they wanted to explore their interests in helping vulnerable people. Namely, they requested to work with the elderly, the homeless and refugees. Additionally, they were encouraged to see if there was a way that they could use their interests in cooking and various forms of arts and crafts to in some way be able to help others.

At this stage of being more than half way through the project, the young people have already volunteered with the elderly, by helping with the lunch time service at Roseberry Mansion residential home (cooking and serving lunches and socialising with the residents); they have knitted winter garments to be sent to Syrian refugees living in Europe, in association with the charity Knit Aid, and also participated in Central Saint Martin University's Green Week Community event that took place in the skip Garden on 16th February 2018.

In addition to the voluntary practical work this group of young people have been participating in, they have also attended seminars in the Skip Garden to explore the themes of their projects from a more reflective perspective. Themes of these seminars included looking closely at empathy, which coincided with a visit to the National Portrait Gallery to use portraiture as a stimulus to reflect on the perspectives of others.

In other seminars they also looked at the important role food plays when wanting to host and/ or bring community members together. The young people cooked meals in the Skip Garden, from ingredients that were considered as waste, destined to be thrown away from local supermarkets, restaurants and bakeries. They also created their own menus (drawing inspiration from what they personally considered as ‘good food’). The menus ranged from lasagna with salad and a fruit smoothie, to sweet potato mash and fishcakes, to rice and curry, using halal meat.

The young people also learnt about the food waste epidemic in the UK and brainstormed ideas about what they would personally do (if money was no object and they had the backing of government and businesses) to reduce and limit food waste. Ideas included that:  food to be donated to schools, food to be given to homeless people, to employ the homeless and other unemployed people seeking work to be the link between places with surplus food (e.g supermarkets, restaurants) and places where food needs to be donated to (e.g schools, shelters). Many of the young people felt very strongly that businesses that waste food should be taxed by the government as in incentive to bring about change.

The young people concluded that in order for there to be a change to the food waste crisis in the UK, the government, big and small businesses and charities would all have to work together to create an effective system to reduce food waste. They also recognised that they had the power to change food waste practices at a personal level, that they have power to make better choices and be influencers of change for their friends and family.