A squad of 40 women, most of whom had no experience of working with tools before, joined forces and built a community garden in Exmouth, in just eight hours.
The not-for-profit All Women Splash Project took place on Saturday 1 April at Littleham Leisure Centre, a community hall owned by Littleham Parish Church. The Wave, a Baptist Church and Charity, runs various activities from the venue and acquired a grant to fund the materials for the garden’s construction.
The project was launched by Exmouth based business Splash Projects which works with businesses and business schools around the world and facilitates the build of timber-based infrastructure for charities. The volunteers came from all different backgrounds and ranged from 18 to 74 years old.
Splash Projects’ Managing Director Simon Poole came up with the idea of a women only project to mark International Women’s Day (March 8th) and give women the chance to learn new skills and make new friends over an impactful community project.
Around 90 per cent of Splash Projects’ work is overseas so, by funding all the manpower for the project, this was the family-run business’s way of giving back to the community. And thanks to the volunteers and the expertise of Splash Projects’ facilitators, the build was created for a fraction of what it would have otherwise cost.
The All Women Splash Project transformed the grassy area surrounding the hall into a sensory growing garden for the community to enjoy as a social space, tackling isolation, and for growing fruit and vegetables, promoting exercise and healthy eating. Going forward, The Wave will take on the management of the garden with the community.
Andrea Parkin, Splash Projects’ Project Manager, said: “Most of our projects are further afield, so this is our way of giving back to our local community and giving women the opportunity to learn new skills together.
“We are so grateful to each and every one of the women who gave their time for free to make this happen, undeterred by the rain and problem solving together to overcome challenges and build a fantastic garden that will benefit so many people for many years to come.
“Our projects area all about teamwork. They take people out of their comfort zones and participants get to understand their strengths and weaknesses, with everyone supporting each other to achieve an amazing outcome.”
A group of friends even decided to volunteer for the day as a novel way to celebrate one of their birthdays.
Shelly Stammers, 44, volunteer and local resident, said: “I live just down the road and wanted to be part of doing something so valuable for my community; it will be a great feeling to walk by and say, ‘I helped build that’.”
Jenny Dawson, 37, volunteer and local resident, said: “I grew up here and have had birthday parties and my engagement party at the hall, and my children go to the playgroup here, so it’s been great to have the opportunity to contribute to the garden which will be great for the community. It’s been amazing to see what we’ve done together.”
Rev Steve Jones, Team Rector, said: “When we work together, we’re unstoppable, it’s been wonderful to see all these women come together for a common purpose; it’s not just about skills, it’s about the will to do something.”
The Wave runs a Community Fridge (food bank), which is available three times a week, from the hall, and a community café at the centre every Tuesday, with other community groups using the hall for various activities.
Rev Sam Burnett, of The Wave, said: “Food is a basic human need but there are people in our community who don’t have enough. The garden will give people the chance to grow fruit and vegetables, which we will use in the café and distribute in the food bank.
“What I was thinking was going to take me months, took one day, we’re blown away by what these exceptional women have achieved.”
On International Women’s Day Splash Projects put a call out on social media for women in the greater Exmouth area to take part and were over-subscribed in a fortnight.
Several sponsors also came forward including Jewson Exeter, Exmouth Power Tools and Devonshire Lavenders and Herbs. The generosity of these local businesses massively helped cut-the-costs for the project.
Branch Manager for Jewson Exeter, Richard Scott, who is also a Devon County Councillor for Exmouth, helped throughout the day with his two-year-old daughter and young sons. He said: “I brought my daughter along for the day, because, although she was too young to help, I wanted her to see a group of women in action and see they’re just as capable as a group of men. I wanted her to see that she can achieve anything she wants to, just like them.”
He added: “We try and support the community as best we can, and we have a lot of women who work with us so we’re very happy to be involved as a business, and also as a councillor and resident.”