Here at CARAS, we live and thrive by the willingness of local communities to welcome those who have been forced to flee dreadful events, and lend a helping hand to rebuild their lives. We have over ten years’ experience of partnership with volunteers and refugees, creating a safe space for those who need it.


With your support, we plan to bring the joys and nurturing benefits of gardening to the new members of our community.


The Gardens of Refuge project will provide respite and the therapeutic benefits of gardening to refugee young people and families living in south London, working side by side with their neighbours. The one-year project will provide gardening activities that begin at local, small urban sites and building to residential trips to The Grange, an outdoor respite centre in rural Norfolk. The project will be delivered in partnership with The Grange and with local environmental community group Transition Town Tooting.


Gardens of Refuge will be available to all of the refugees and asylum seekers who attend CARAS – currently an average of 90 each month. 30 of those most in need of intensive respite will be invited to visit The Grange for a week. As well as incorporating planting, growing, building, pruning and reaping during CARAS group activities, participants will be supported to access the local community gardens on a regular basis and to take part in volunteer building and growing days at The Grange. Three residential trips to The Grange, during the summer holidays, will be offered: two targeted at newly-arrived unaccompanied young people and a third for a small number of families experiencing extreme stress and hardship.



Recently, Minister for Public Health Jane Ellison endorsed the ‘ecotherapy’ approach.

“Gardening is profoundly good for you … it is a great way of keeping people active, of keeping them outside and keeping their sense of wellbeing very high”

At CARAS, people are encouraged to use and share pre-existing skills and experience, learn new ones, and gain a sense of achievement though nurturing their local environment. Gardens of Refuge will build on this and also connect refugees and asylum seekers to other people and places in their local community and beyond. For many this is an aspect that is missing from their new lives in a busy, unfamiliar city.


But to ensure the success of this project, we need your help!

By voting for us to receive the Aviva Community Fund, you will help to ensure the future of this amazing project, and allow us to help those who will most benefit from it.


Gardens of Refuge will enable everyone who takes part to create a legacy, contribute to the wider community and make a strong statement that refugees are not only welcomed here, but that they add knowledge, skills and beauty. This legacy will be visible here at the CARAS site n suburban Tooting, benefitting a diverse range of individuals and groups; in the Tooting Community Garden; and in rural Norfolk, enjoyed by the more than 100 others who attend The Grange each year.


So help gardens of refuge make it to the finals for the Aviva Community Fund, and help us to make this project a reality. All you have to do is take a few minutes of your time to vote here, and don’t hesitate to send this to your friends and family – the more support this project gets, the more chance we have of making it a success.


Voting Closes on the 18th November.


Thank you.