top of page

The dreaded volunteer: Why inclusion is so important in garden projects

A feral cat peers out from foliage

We have a new volunteer in one of our gardens. To be honest, she’s not very good with a shovel and she’s yet to pull any weeds. Well don't dare tell her that, though. She’s not very sociable. In fact, most people are frightened of her. There's something about her demeanour that shows she has a difficult view on life.

It’s likely she’d deny she’s part of our garden project. She prefers to lurk on the fringe of the garden while the work is going on. We try to engage her, but she’s not having it. While she doesn’t run away, if we get too close, she lets us know contact is not welcome.

Whether she knows it or not, she has a lot in common with many of the volunteers that participate in our Egino Emerging garden project. Socially excluded people often have trust issues. Some prefer to keep people at arms length, sometimes to avoid getting hurt again. A few of our volunteers have personality issues. It’s difficult to maintain an outgoing friendly personality when you’ve had a difficult life. We understand that.

But Egino Emerging is all about inclusion. We don’t exclude anyone. Having a tough time? Frustrated with life? Don’t know whom to trust? We hear you. You are welcome to spend some time with us. No judgement, no pressure, no expectations. It’s all about sharing a space and helping others, as well as ourselves.

No one remembers when our latest volunteer officially joined the project. She’s been seen around off and on over the last few months. From her attitude, we can see she’s had her share of hard times. But we can also see she’s trying her best to hold her own in a harsh world. She has her boundaries, but she's making it work in her own way.

Whether she knows it or not, she’s a big contributor to the project. In past years, we’ve had some issues with mice and rats in the polytunnels and compost bins. This was a major concern of ours while we set up the worm farm to compost food waste from a nearby facility. Happily, we’ve had no rodent problems. We know whom the thank for that. It can only be our surly, aloof volunteer on the prowl every night after the other volunteers have gone home.

We’ll keep reaching out to our latest volunteer, but we know there’s a line she won’t cross. That’s cool. We respect boundaries. There’s a spot where we accidentally leave a pouch of food out for her. We know she’s too proud to ask. We’re just showing her she’s welcome and saying thanks for her contribution.

When our potatoes are ready for harvest to donate to the local food bank, there will be many people to credit for the effort of making our communities better, including one grouchy feral cat that lives in a hedge on the outskirts of our garden.


bottom of page