To celebrate national Volunteer Week we’ve been speaking to volunteers across the University of Cambridge Museums, to find out why they give their time to support us.

Yasmeen Farooqui tells us why she volunteers for the community garden at Hanover Court, a project run by the Education Team at the Botanic Garden.

I wanted a voluntary role that would put my gardening experience to use; the community garden seemed to be the perfect place to do that. The project is quite simple; we turn up every Tuesday at the Community Centre, which is situated in the large rectangular space in between two ‘60s blocks of flats at Hanover Court. Hannah from the Education team courageously steers the tricycle full of tools and compost, up from the Botanic Garden and we set to work

Flis, the Head of Education, often helps with planning the year and organising the projects. The residents from Hanover Court tell us what sort of things they would like to grow, and we do our best to make it happen. It ranges from potatoes grown in sacks to growing roses and sweet peas in the 1 x 3 meter plots adjacent to the ground floor flats. There are planters in front of the centre, used for growing herbs that the residents look after and use.

Seed sowing sessions start the year so that everyone has a chance of growing tomatoes and peppers for their balconies or plots. We’ll soon be having a hanging basket session when people can bring their baskets and containers to plant up with flowers ready for the summer. Later in the year we’ll make use of what’s been grown. Last year we made up lavender bags and had a tasting session of the potatoes grown in the sacks, cooked outside on a camping stove. They were delicious!

One of the things I really enjoy about volunteering is the sociability of communal gardening. We laugh and chat and learn about each other’s lives whilst transplanting seedlings or digging up the narrow beds at the foot of the concrete flats. We encourage everyone to have a go at gardening and it seems to build confidence and a sense of community. A couple of the residents have been surprised at their ability to grow things well, and the pleasure they get from their success makes volunteering very worthwhile.

It’s a challenge to grow things with limited space, time and budget but each season we try to do more. It’s very satisfying to be a part of it all.

Why not consider volunteering with the University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden yourself?  It’s a fun way to meet new people, broaden your knowledge, and gain great experience, all working flexibly around your schedule and how much time you are able to give. Visit the University of Cambridge Museums website for more information and ways to apply!