Vital projects for inner-city children and disabled people are under threat as Spitalfields City Farm's Board of Trustees cut volunteer programmes.
We are asking fellow volunteers and supporters if they can sign this petition https://www.change.org/saveourspitalfieldscityfarm and if they are able to and willing, for any donations to help us with the marketing and legal costs that we expect to arise from this campaign.
Funds will be spent on the cost of a lawyer and advertising costs to spread the word about the campaign.
Once we hit our target we will withdraw any money raised and pay for legal assistance and any advertising costs.
Please see our petition here for more info: https://www.change.org/saveourspitalfieldscityfarm
Thank you very much.
SOS: Save Our Spitalfields City Farm
INFO ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN
Vital projects for inner-city children and disabled people are under threat as Spitalfields City Farm faces the biggest crisis of it’s 42 year history.
Why is this important?
Over the past 40 years Spitalfields City Farm has been a focal point for the whole local community. In 1978 a team of volunteers worked together to develop the site. Throughout its history, the farm has been a vital resource for the physical and mental health of the residents of Tower Hamlets and London. The farm is a stimulating and inclusive space for young people, disabled children and adults and local families, providing a green oasis in the concrete inner city area of Tower Hamlets, one of London’s most deprived boroughs.
However, Spitalfields City Farm is under threat. The Farm’s trustees now believe we can’t afford to include everyone in the community and are cutting essential community services. Under the new plan to ‘streamline’ the farm, they intend to cut existing volunteer programmes which enable vulnerable people to volunteer with full support. Additionally, family volunteering, youth volunteering and work experience programmes are to be scrapped and the role of Volunteer Coordinator, which leads the entire volunteer programme, has been made redundant.
Volunteers are at the heart of Spitalfields City Farm. The farm’s volunteering opportunities help people to feel empowered. At the farm they are able to learn new skills, gain confidence and combat loneliness through building connections and friendships. The impact of these cuts on individuals, their carers and families is devastating and none of them have even been consulted.
The Board of Trustees claim that the reason for this redundancy process and cutting the volunteer programmes is purely financial. The volunteers, staff and other farm supporters believe this is not the case. It has been proven with figures that these projects are entirely fundable; the Volunteer Coordinator has successfully raised funds for them for almost a decade and before being made redundant earlier this month had provided a counter proposal outlining efficient ways to keep the programmes running and growing to serve the entire community. This was dismissed by the Interim CEO and Trustees.
As well as being highly fundable, it's also worth noting that the volunteering programmes bring considerable savings to the farm, whether that be growing crops to sell to the community or individuals volunteering their professional services as a thank you (free veterinarian help, for example) for the family volunteering sessions.
"People from all backgrounds have the right to come to the farm to heal, rehabilitate, recover and learn all about nature with the support of the farm. By making these cuts the Trustees and Intermin CEO are automatically denying young teenagers, children, families and those with special needs the great opportunity to be at the farm. In addition to creating a haven for them, the farm has always benefitted from their labour and input." Volunteer X
Toxicity at the top
The Trustees have used finances as a reason to cut the services, yet three other members of staff have been recently hired. At the time of publication there has also been no information from the current Interim CEO and Trustees to the farm staff about the overall financial situation of the farm since April 2020. There has also been no communication from the Interim CEO and Trustees about the proposed cuts, restructure of the farm or ways to prevent such drastic measures to farm staff, volunteers and the local community. There has also been no communication from the Interim CEO or Trustees to staff, volunteers or the community about the Volunteer Coordinator being made redundant after almost a decade of service. The farm has been kept running through the pandemic by the Volunteer Coordinator, other staff members, and a small team of volunteers. They have continued to feed and nurture the 80+ animals on site, and grown crops to feed the local community. The Interim CEO has not been on site since March.
It should also be highlighted that while many other city farms in London set up emergency appeals during the pandemic, raising between £30,000 and £243,000, Spitalfields Farm Trustees made no effort to adopt this method of raising funds. Instead, it was Spitalfields’ volunteers who took it upon themselves to raise money through successful online fundraising events. Other farms opened to the public over the summer, or brought back volunteering groups, or both. Most have prioritised getting service users back.
Worsening mental health in Tower Hamlets
Whatsmore, in this time of Covid-19 uncertainty, the farm’s outdoor volunteering programmes are more vital than ever for the local community. Instead of turning our backs on the community we serve, we need to support individuals who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and those whose mental health is suffering due to the insecurity and social isolation that has significantly increased since the pandemic began. This is a serious need in our community in particular, as much of the housing is of multiple occupancy and green space is extremely sparse. The child poverty rate in Tower Hamlets is the highest of all London boroughs, with 57% of children judged to be living in households in poverty.
It has been said by healthcare professionals that people with preexisting medical, psychiatric, or substance use problems are at increased risk for adverse psychosocial outcomes during the pandemic, and we do not want to make the problem worse by cutting them out.
“X has bipolar, and after episodes of mania and psychosis, finds her memory and cognitive function are impaired. Since volunteering in the gardens, she has noticed that she can focus better and has experienced what she refers to as ‘cognitive healing.’ She reports that her mental wellbeing has increased ‘a lot’ as a result of volunteering, and she loves and treasures the social interaction she gets at the farm, even if it’s only with a few people. Before volunteering, she was very withdrawn, and didn’t even want to see friends.”
Many of the teenage volunteers between 13-18, or young farmers/UFOs as they are known, credit their weekly volunteering sessions at the farm for helping them get into vet school or university. This programme supports young people to become confident in their abilities, learn new skills, gain employability, overcome barriers to achievement and fulfil their potential.
“Working at Spitalfields has really helped give me some practical, hands on experience in lots of areas of animal care. The atmosphere is so friendly and welcoming and you really feel like you have contributed to something.” Work Experience Y
Additionally, the families who are part of the weekly Families Go Wild programme take part in gardening, food growing, animal care, nature crafts, cooking and healthy eating activities. These programmes gives children and young people a safe space to connect with nature and improve their wellbeing.
“Z is a child who attends with his mother and baby brother. He enjoys digging in the garden, knows how to plant our seedlings and look after plants. He has also discovered an interest in looking after animals. Over the course of the year, Z’s confidence has increased greatly. He communicates better with other children and adults, and is more open to new people than before. He takes pride in being able to complete tasks independently and he involves himself in play with the other family volunteers and spends time with them outside of volunteering sessions.”
The Board have severely misunderstood how critical volunteers and the Volunteer Coordinator are to the farm’s sustainability as a haven and support for local people, while giving limited information on the future of the farm. As a community we are not resistant to change, but not at the cost of the integrity of the Farm and its original purpose.
“The lack of transparency and consultation with the community and in particular the volunteers that are at risk here draws the conclusion that the Board consider the volunteer programmes to be of minimal value for and to the community. These actions display an arrogant contempt for the volunteers at Spitalfields City Farm.” Volunteer Y
We want to be consulted
Those who see value only in money are trying to subvert that which is ours; nature, community, friendship and health. In this pandemic, we need to come together as a community and not tear apart projects that have served us so well. The current ground staff at Spitalfields City Farm have invested so much, are highly skilled and best suited to support the needs of community members moving forward. Real people and their wellbeing are at stake here.
We are asking for the following:
1. Cancel the proposed cuts to the volunteer programmes affecting young people, vulnerable adults and children, and local families.
2. Reinstate the Volunteer Coordinator role.
3. Provide a clear and transparent strategy to secure the future of the farm for the community and consult with the public and service users on issues concerning them and their engagement with the farm going forward.
We must act now before our wonderful Farm as we know it is lost forever. Let’s ensure that we celebrate another 40 years - and more!
We need your help to show how integral the farm is to you and the community.
How you can help
1. Please sign this petition here - https://www.change.org/saveourspitalfieldscityfarm- and add the reasons that you signed, or memories and experiences you’ve had at the farm.
2. Please share this petition across your networks as you feel is appropriate. Please use the hashtag #SOS #SCF #SaveOurSpitalfields #SaveSpitalfieldsCityFarm anywhere you can
3. You can also try emailing the following people in local government to share your concerns over the proposed changes:
4. You can donate here to help with campaign costs.
5. Please follow us on social media at our new Twitter (@SOSspitzfarm) Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SOS-Save-Our-Spitalfields-City-Farm-by-SCF-volunteers-and-farm-supporters-125766396007679) and Instagram (@saveourspitalfieldscityfarm) campaign handles.
Thank you, from all volunteers, staff and supporters at Spitalfields City Farm.
About Spitalfields City Farm
Spitalfields City Farm is the nearest city farm to the square mile. Despite this, the farm is located in one of the most deprived and densely populated wards of Tower Hamlets (DOE 1996), although Spitalfields remains a vibrant and colourful multi-cultural area with strong community links.
In 1987, lack of revenue funding almost caused the farm to close. The farm has also been under regular threat from developers. Successive bids to various charitable trusts, companies and public funding bodies, as well a strong local support have enabled the farm to continue and grow.
The farm gained charitable status in 1980 and has since developed into a project providing a wide range of activities and opportunities to the local community and visiting groups.
The farm is a registered charity and company limited by guarantee, managed by a voluntary management committee drawn from its membership and elected annually.
Receiving over 18,000 visitors a year and spread over 1.3 acres of land owned by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Railtrack. The farm keeps a selection of farm animals and has developed growing areas in every available space.
For more information about Spitalfields City Farm, check here:
- Bridget Pearson
- Ben Adler
- Juliette Larthe
- Ben Coombs
- Zarina Chaudhry
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