Edinburgh College community garden scoops national award

Posted on 29/11/2013 by


Image 1Edinburgh College is celebrating after winning a national award last night (28 November) for its community garden, thanks to its outstanding contribution to the wellbeing needs of the college and the local community. 

The community garden won first place in the Health and Wellbeing category at theCollege Development Network Annual Awards (CDNAA) at an awards dinner at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow. The college also won a Highly Commended award for its electric vehicle project and a Commended award for its innovative induction programme for new students.

Designed to recognise the talent, skills and achievements of colleges, their staff and students, the College Development Network Annual Awards provide a valuable opportunity to celebrate the exceptional projects and initiatives taking place in colleges across Scotland.

The judges were impressed with the far-reaching effects and benefits of the garden, including everything from the positive impact on sustainability for the college as a whole to the improved mental, physical and emotional health of the gardeners.

Based at the college’s Milton Road campus, the garden was established inSeptember 2012 to transforman area of previously unused land into a green space for staff, students and the local community to enjoy the outdoors and work together to grow plants, vegetables and fruit. The main aim of this was to encourage a healthier lifestyle, promote outdoor activity and encourage a more environmentally friendly way of producing food locally.

Since the opening of the green space, the community garden has come on leaps and bounds over a short period of time, with more than 160 students, staff and community groups using the facilities. Fifty individuals grow their own fruit and vegetables in the garden’s plots while groups such as Sikh Sanjog, a local charity that supports women and their families from the Sikh and minority ethnic communities, have used the garden as a social space.

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Harriet Cross, sustainability coordinator at Edinburgh College, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to have won theCollege Development Network Annual Awards for the Milton Road community garden. Our community garden has been a hugely popular resource for the students, staff and the local community and it’s fantastic for it to be recognised by a national awards body.

“Gardening enables individuals to pause and reflect on events happening in their life and I think this is why it has had such a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the garden users. Not only does the garden promote healthy eating and focus on the importance of where our food comes from but it also gives people the time to chat and socialise with like-minded people. The garden coordinator, Severine Monvoisin, has led the garden project and completed a course to enable her to use listening skills to give appropriate responses when individuals open up and talk about personal matters while gardening.”

Severine Monvoisin, garden coordinator at Edinburgh College, said: “We have seen huge improvements in the confidence levels of students using the garden. It gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment. For example, a student with special needs required help to change into gardening wear and this made her very reluctant to use the garden. However, after a few months, she started to work with her peers taking on tasks she could achieve, such as weeding and planting seeds, and this gave her confidence in her own abilities. She now no longer requires any help to put on her gardening outfit and regularly uses the outdoor space.”

The success of the Milton Road community garden has sparked another green space project at the college’s campus in Sighthill, which is currently under development. The unused acre-sized area of land at the Sighthill campus will be supported byCarr Gomm, a charity that supports vulnerable people through personal, practical and professional help. By involving community groups at the very beginning of the project, the college hopes the community garden will be a valuable and integral part of the local area.

As well as receiving the top award in the Health and Wellbeing category at theCDNA Awards, Edinburgh College was awarded the Highly Commended prizefor its electric vehicle research project in the Sustainability category. The college operates and monitors a fleet of electric vehicles and is conducting research into their environmental viability. The scheme – a partnership with SEStran, Edinburgh Napier University and Mitsubishi Phoenix – has gone from strength to strength and is now the largest of its kind in Scotland.

The creative arm of the college was also under the spotlight at the awards ceremony thanks to an innovative induction programme for new students developed by students themselves. The Creative Industries team picked up a Commended award for its project, which involves students being given responsibility for developing induction activities for new students. The scheme was set up to ensure inductions are as well-tailored for students as possible.

Pictured top: Severine Monvoisin, garden coordinator at Edinburgh College and Harriet Cross, sustainability coordinator at Edinburgh College. 

Pictured above: Garden users at the Milton Road community garden.

Featured image: The Milton Road community garden under construction in 2012.