Residents create Chelsea Show Garden

Monday, 18th May, 2009
Three residents from Leicester YMCA helped to set up one of the largest gardens in this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show as part of The Key project. Four other young people from Leicester YMCA's Customer Service training programme will be attending on Saturday 23rd may to help with hospitality at the event.

The Garden
More than 20 groups of homeless or disadvantaged people from around the country have jumped at the chance to get involved with helping construct a major showpiece garden for this year's show in London, which opens on 19th May. The garden, known as The Key, was designed by Paul Stone of the Eden Project, who already has a clutch of Chelsea gold medals under his belt. This ambitious initiative is the product of a unique collaboration between the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), Communities and Local Government (CLG), the Eden Project and Homeless Link.

Homeless projects and prisons around the country have been growing most of the required stock of 10,000 plants. The centrepiece of the garden is a huge vertical green wall of plants, measuring 65 feet by seven feet, and incorporating 4,000 young and tender plants. Paul Stone said: "The idea behind the garden is that it echoes the life journeys that people are making. It is a symbol of being locked up - whether in prison or just by a lack of opportunity - but also a means of opening doors and being released." He added: "The Key is a catalyst for long-term change and ongoing work, by increasing employment prospects for the participants who have gained new life skills and training through their involvement in the project."

Leicester YMCA residents Jack, Bekah and Jas were tasked with levelling soil, planting, clearing the decking and adding the finishing touches to the garden ready for the opening. Bekah said: "It was a productive day with a lot of hard work involved. The idea of the garden was that change is possible. It was clearly displayed in the project with the labyrinth and the path of broken bricks. The art work displayed in the garden was inspiration as it has left us thinking about our own garden."

"I found it very interesting to learn about how you can express real life situations with flowers and how we can express our own opinions by plants, flowers and wood. From today we have thought of some real useful ideas for the gardens at the YMCA to add our own touch." Jas, Leicester YMCA, Aylestone Resident

"Being involved, we learnt how the idea of the garden was homelessness and things all came together when you have a proper look at the object." Jack, Leicester YMCA, Aylestone Resident

Chris, a resident at Leicester YMCA, has been looking after plants at the Aylestone Centre. He said "Being involved with the gardening project has been really fun and has kept me occupied. I have learnt new things and gained knowledge. I really enjoyed watering the lettuces, watching them grow and sprout into what they are now".

Customer Service
Graduates of Leicester YMCA's work based customer service training programme performed so well at a Homeless Link's Regional Conference that they were offered the opportunity to get more experience at the Chelsea Flower Show. The young people have just been awarded their NVQ qualifications and are now seeking employment.

Paul Brown, Chief Executive of Leicester YMCA said: "This is a wonderful opportunity for young people to get access to a nationally recognised event that is quite often outside their economic reach. The garden project and the hospitality work will develop their confidence and self-esteem and add valuable experience to their CVs - all helping them to make a real step towards employment."

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