TCCA and British Red Cross’s new Lavender Garden Project to teach local community how to grow herbs and vegetables

The Turkish Cypriot Cultural Association (TCCA) have joined forces with the British Red Cross to launch an innovative gardening project that will not only help participants learn new skills and make new friends, but also offer therapeutic benefits.

T-VINE asked TCCA Co-ordinator Gülnur Salih how this project came about and how local people can get involved.

After the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March 2020, many members of the local Turkish community started growing vegetables and sharing seeds, skills and knowledge amongst each other during this unprecedented situation.

“We all stayed at home and shielded for many months. We didn’t have family or friends visiting, so gardening became a good option for outdoor activity and a way of passing the time in a meaningful way,” Gülnur explained.

The TCCA Co-ordinator remembers getting seeds from one of the Turkish community members as she packed, labelled and posted people her own organic seeds that had originated in Turkey.

“We all started growing and sharing photos of our vegetables, flowers on social media. Suddenly, lots of people started becoming interested in gardening. This was not only a way of keeping occupied, but it also gave us the opportunity to consume our own produce.

“The TCCA team thought it would be a good idea to support people by providing seeds and guiding them in a structured way to grow their own vegetables, whether in the garden ground or in pots.

“We have a great space for the community to meet with each other, and have conversations over tea and coffee,” Gülnur continued.

“With this project we are opening our centre to the wider community in order to unite with each other,” she added.

A registered charity, the TCCA has long been one of the hubs of the Turkish Cypriot community in London. Launched in 1977, the TCCA has been operating out of a building on Graham Road, Hackney, for over four decades. They offer a wide range of support services to the local Turkish and Turkish Cypriot community, from Turkish language classes and Turkish Cypriot heritage activities for young people, to computer lessons for the elderly, and regular community meet-ups.

The TCCA’s new gardening project is called the ‘Lavender Gardening Project’, and is a collaboration between themselves and the British Red Cross. It is funded by the Clarion Futures Housing Association and will run until August 2022.

The sessions will be split, with some held at the Turkish Cypriot Cultural Association, and others involving practical instruction take place at the nearby British Red Cross’s garden.

It is open to all adults, although “the primary target group is the over 55s, who live in Hackney”, said Gülnur. However, the TCCA “will also try to accommodate people from other areas as much as possible.”

The main aim of the project is to “reduce social isolation” and help people “to maintain positive mental health and wellbeing via gardening.”

The gardening guides speak English and Turkish, ensuring the project is open for “everyone in the local community”.

The launch event is taking place at the British Red Cross car in Dalston at midday on Friday, 1 October. It is free to attend and everyone is welcome, but due to Covid-19 regulations, prior registration is required. If you can’t attend Friday’s launch, but still wish to enrol for the Lavender Gardening Project then contact Gülnur Salih via the contact details given below.

Event Details

Title: Lavender Gardening Project

Date: Friday 1 October 2021

Time:  12 midday

Venue: 92 Dalston Lane, London, E8 1NG – The car park of the British Red Cross

The nearest train station is Dalston Junction

Event Registration: due to Covid-19 rules, TCCA asks everyone to pre-register for the launch event by emailing Gülnur Salih or sending a text message to 07946 344667, so TCCA can safely manage numbers. Also contact Gülnur Salih for more information and to enrol on the project.