Anna Herrington, a student from the U.S. who was attending the University of St Andrews, worked with our garden team in Craigtoun Park throughout this year. Here are Anna’s thoughts and impressions of her time with The Sunshine Kitchen:
Working at The Sunshine Kitchen was one of the highlights of my time at the University of St. Andrews. I never expected to move to Scotland for a year and find myself working for a garden, but I could not be more grateful that I was given the opportunity to work in such a beautiful, important organisation. When I started working in January, everyone at the garden was quick to bring me in, making me feel comfortable and part of the family! I was able to make so many friends that I never would have met if I had just stuck around in the St. Andrews bubble for the whole of the year. Getting to learn everyone’s stories and interests are priceless memories that I will carry with me no matter where in the world my journey takes me. We shared so many laughs over finding strange critters who had made a home in the garden, growing produce, and even shovelling soil for hours on end. Though the labour was difficult at times, the work was meaningful, rewarding, and I am forever grateful for the friendships that were forged.
One of the most remarkable aspects of The Sunshine Kitchen was its emphasis on nurturing the abilities of each individual. Every young adult, regardless of how challenging the work may be, was given tasks tailored to their unique strengths and preferences. Witnessing each person’s sense of accomplishment (including my own) when we successfully tended to plants, harvested vegetables, or even operated power tools was always exciting and rewarding for everyone. It was evident that in the safe space provided by The Sunshine Kitchen, all differences were celebrated and potentials were given the chance to flourish. In my short time at the garden I watched several people develop new skills that produced a sense of accomplishment and creativity for how to approach a situation in the future.
During my time at the garden, I had the privilege of witnessing the start of a new garden. We went through the process of envisioning what the new space might be for, clearing out overgrown foliage, building a new space, and beginning to plant the new garden. I cannot wait to follow along on the Facebook page to see how far the new garden comes! At The Sunshine Kitchen garden, I loved getting to watch everyone growing together and seeing which sort of roles each individual would take on. Some were quick to be great delegates, problem solvers, delicate seed sowers, or experts in drilling. You could really see how the volunteers at the garden work together as a team.
The world could really use more places like The Sunshine Kitchen. A place where people who are often misunderstood and marginalised would benefit from being more like the inclusive and empowering space I witnessed in my time at the garden. The world would become a place of growth, love, and acceptance, a place where the potentials of individuals are recognised rather than the differences which divide us. The experiences shared at the garden will forever hold a special place in my heart, serving as a constant reminder that meaningful connections and growth can happen in the most unexpected places.