Hands of Hope is a community charity that uses growing and cooking healthy, nutritious food, to bring the communities of Hastings, Rother and West Kent together, reconnecting people with where their food comes from, teaching them how to grow and cook healthy, nutritious food and ultimately using these processes to reduce childhood obesity and loneliness levels– two issues which are prevalent in today’s society and for which there are no short-term solutions.
Population demographics will change significantly over the next 5-20 years , with an increasing ageing population. The largest increase is expected in the over 65 age band at 59.4% with the 85 aged populations increasing by 22.4%. Furthermore, by 2021 the number of older people is forecast to increase by 29% in rural areas, compared to 20% in urban areas.
We also know that 1 in 5 schoolchildren will leave primary school already obese and that obesity tends to track into adulthood, so obese children are more likely to become obese adults. . Unfortunately, children raised in households with no education and no outlet for change will have huge detrimental effect on a health service and society for years to come.
Set up in 2016 by the three current Trustees who have over 50 years boardroom experience between them, we have acquired an 18 acre site in Hawkhurst, including an Edwardian walled garden for which we have received planning permission to build a cooking school, a large Victorian greenhouse and a seminar/teaching room. The site will be our central “hub” from where we will deliver both central and community programmes, aimed at reducing social isolation and improving people’s well-being.
In the short term we will be running projects to help combat loneliness such as ‘Men In Sheds’ lunch clubs, ‘Hens of Hope’ as well as growing and cooking programmes for schools aimed at encouraging our children to lead happier, healthier lives. Longer term, we will have a forestry school, art, music and other activities to enhance people’s lives. We will also aim to help the long term unemployed within our communities through catering and horticultural courses. The majority of our programmes will be delivered within our communities, providing much needed services to people locally as well as generating income for village halls and also potentially offering local employment opportunities.
Eventually our strategy sees us using growing and cooking to help tackle homelessness and as we develop Hawkhurst we aim to create a social enterprise centre delivering such services as “Meals on Wheels” and “School Dinners.”
Since 2016 we have engaged in a number of programmes locally including Helping Hands Lunch Club programmes for seniors, School Gardens, Live Life on the Veg Cook van, as well as providing volunteering opportunities in our current 2.5 acre organic space in Peasmarsh.
In 2017, we acquired and received planning to restore and develop a derelict walled garden in Hawkhurst & 18 adjoining acres.
Plans are now in place to restore and develop “The Wall” into a vibrant and valuable community hub bringing together young children, families, adults and the elderly. There will be a Victorian glass house for GROWING, a cooking school for TEACHING and the site will serve as a valuable EDUCATION resource centre as well as supporting community projects, volunteer activities and local community events. This is a unique opportunity not only to retain our horticultural heritage but to use its power to help tackle 21st century challenges such as Childhood Obesity and Loneliness.
To tackle obesity our objective is to provide programmes aimed at children, schools and families that combine behaviour change, physical activity and nutrition. These will include:
To help tackle loneliness “The Wall” will not only provide acres of gardening activity but further initiatives to suit a multiple of interests tackling social isolation including: