Equal Community Garden is based at Eglinton Community Garden on the edge of Kilwinning. It’s part of a supported employment programme that helps people with disabilities or long term health conditions into employment, while offering ongoing support throughout. Having the garden opens up even more possibilities, with Caledonian Horticultural Society qualifications and an SVQ in Horticulture now an option for those on the programme.

Faskin Group Ltd are a roofing contractor and reached out to the Council about supporting Equal Community Garden after seeing it on the Wish List. They offered to donate the 90 2×2 slabs and accompanying wind dust required to slab one end of the group’s polytunnel, increasing accessibility for those with mobility issues. In a very helpful coincidence, another Council contractor were also interested in the same wish! Ricoh UK provide the Council with print services, and also got in touch to see how they could help. Within 3 weeks from the first discussion, Faskin had arranged for the delivery of slabs to Eglinton, and a team of 7 volunteers from Ricoh (coming as far away as Edinburgh and Fife!) arrived to begin work at the garden.

The polytunnel before the slabs went down

The team from Ricoh worked alongside some of the team from Equal, moving the wind dust out of the delivery sacks, levelling the uneven ground of the polytunnel and laying the slabs. The newly levelled surface will allow the slabbed end of the polytunnel to serve as a covered classroom and learning space during bad weather, and greatly increases access for wheelchair users. The combined efforts of both contractors have been exactly the right thing at the right time, and by the end of a long day’s work, the group are much further ahead than they would have been without the extra pairs of hands. Rod McIntosh, project lead at the garden, says: “It has been a great help – we will be able to even open our area up to potentially more individuals with mobility difficulties and to wheelchair users. Our teaching area will now also be offered out to other groups within our community garden if they have any specific training they need to deliver.”

The team of volunteers from Ricoh and Equal at the end of a long day!

On seeing the images of the work completed by the volunteers from Ricoh, Karen from Faskin Group reflected that “we feel very lucky that we were in a position to be able to offer the help.  I really like the idea of the wish list, I feel it allows us to see the direct benefit of what we are delivering.  We would definitely use the wish list again.”

Patricia Craig, who helped to organise the input from Ricoh (and came along to volunteer!), said that “This is our first visit to the community gardens and hopefully won’t be the last… The impact for our team has been very positive, they enjoyed the day and the benefits of working outside has been beneficial for mental health and wellbeing.”

Doug Craig, Regional Service Manager at Ricoh added “Firstly, I would like to thank the community garden staff for their hospitality and allowing us to help them carry out one of the many projects they have pending. It was also fascinating to learn what they do at the group and the people they aim to help. We were privileged to be working with some of the clients who attend the group which allowed us to get first hand experience of their enthusiasm and the hard work they are willing to put in. The task of laying 90 slabs was totally out of our comfort zone, however, as a team and I include the clients and staff from the group, we achieved a great start as a result.”

The trainees themselves are really pleased with their “fantastic area”, which is “brilliant for having hands on horticulture”.

If you have been inspired by this project and would also like to offer some support to Equal Community Garden, they’d love to hear from anyone who could help them rebuild a cabin on the site, or who might be in a position to donate armoured wiring to help connect them to electricity. If this sounds like it’s a good fit with your work, please drop us a line at communitybenefits@north-ayrshire.gov.uk