Once a month, we put on a youth event to encourage young people to meet up, to chill out and socialise in a safe environment.  Our sessions are geared around mentoring and coaching the young people to overcome any issues they are facing in their daily lives.  These sessions are run by qualified coaches and counsellors.ew image with text >>


A week in the life of the Orchard Gardens community

What is a community? A community is a group of people living or working together in the same area. They also help each other and solve problems together. Orchard Gardens community centre is a prime example of that.

My name is Imarye Banton and this week, for work experience I have visited a community centre called Orchard Gardens I participated in the fun activities they have to offer, as well as speaking with the Owner Fiona Calder and the people who run the clubs I attended.

Based on first appearances Orchard Gardens is a stunning building with lots of colours and personality as well as the spacious garden which is filled with beautiful flowers.

I spoke to Fiona and asked her a few questions about Orchard Gardens itself and how she came to become the owner of it.

Fiona is the passionate and caring owner of Orchard gardens who first realised her passion for helping others as she grew up loving the movie Annie and she also loved reading the Mallory towers books. And as the eldest of 11 Fiona had compassion for others and was good at managing them and herself which as she grew older developed into leadership qualities.

The story which led to Fiona becoming the owner of Orchard Gardens is at anything motivating and inspirational.

“7 years ago, in Downham, a community centre closed, and I had previously taught Saturday school there. I was told that the centre was now available to rent, but I thought there was no way I could buy it. I encouraged my friends and people I knew, to buy it, but they did not seem ‘interested. There was a deadline for submission which was the next day. But then something said to me “What have I got to lose” so I quickly filled out the forms and handed it in half an hour before the deadline. I was called the next day and was told I had got the building. I learnt so much over my time as the owner and I met so many people and started so many activities. So a few years later when Orchard Gardens came around I was much more prepared to take that leap and I don’t regret it.”

Fiona’s favourite thing about Orchard gardens is the people.

“When I run the over 50’s clubs I see people from all different backgrounds and walks of life and I am amazed at how the bricks that make this building don’t become anything until there are people in it and they make it what it is which is a community. “

 Having only been there for a few hours I felt as if I was already part of one big family.

A weekly chess club which takes place on Mondays for home-schooled children is run by Richard Weeks who is very passionate about chess and the technicalities that come into playing.

I learnt a few thing about chess and played a short game and it is safe to say that I am not very good but as I was taught by Richard I can only get better as “Once you have learnt something it can't be unlearnt”

Richard has enjoyed playing chess since he was in secondary school. As they mainly played during the wet breaks. “I didn’t know how to play very well, and nobody taught me. So, I would like to think that I am self-taught. I did research on how to play chess and over the years I have improved and learnt new things about chess.”

How does it feel to belong to a community such as Orchard Gardens?

“I think it's fantastic because it gives me the opportunity to teach children how to play chess because it is a skill that presents itself in many different things that you would have to face. I teach home-schooled children during the day and it is a nice way for them to be around other home-schooled children and learn chess.”

For anybody who wants to learn chess Richard has given you some top tips

  1. You must want to start and want to learn how to play chess.
  2. You must read about chess as well it’s not just about being able to move the chess piece around.
  3. Play as much as you can and always play someone who is better than you at chess as a part of learning is losing.

On Tuesday there is a sewing bee which is run by Tesla who has been sewing for forty years as her mother was a dressmaker, so she learnt from her.

How does it feel to belong to community such as Orchard Gardens?

“It’s good. It’s bringing people together who have a common interest which is sewing whether you know how to sew. When you're in a community group such as a sewing bee your all here for the same thing which is helping people. I enjoy it.”

At the Tuesday sewing club I made my own skirt from scratch. I had sewn a waistband and sewn the rest of the skirt together. I found sewing a very relaxing activity and when I had completed my skirt, I felt accomplished and proud as everyone there was supportive and helpful. When I had difficulty with the sewing machine, I had help all around me from the other club members. I encourage people who would like to learn or anyone who already has sewing as a hobby to participate and make new friends and memories.

On Wednesday there is a dance club run by Paris. I asked her a few questions about her dancing career and about Orchard Gardens itself.

Paris has been doing dance since she was 3 years old, she started tap and did ballet as well and as she got to 7, she picked up more genres of dance such as street dance. She has been dancing for around 25 years.

When did you want to start teaching dance?

“When I was training myself, we used to help assist with classes. When I did the baby groups and I found a passion for teaching kids. I took a gap year for 10 years, but I came back to dance and I took up teaching and I have been for 2 years now.”

How does it feel to belong to a community such as Orchard Gardens?

“It’s nice because when we have events such as the fun day, we had last week. You see everyone come together. They have something in common and you get to make friends here. Not only are they learning something that they can continue professionally but they make memories and friendships. You see them gaining confidence week by week.”

Paris’ favourite thing about dance is that it's an escape, it’s a stress relief. “My favourite style is tap as I feel it’s a dying art so I started my own tap classes and I use more modern music that children can relate to so that they become interested in it. Tap is so rhythmical that you can make your own music with it.”

Paris’ top tips

  1. Confidence is very important
  2. Believe in yourself and what your capable of
  3. Take on your teachers' instructions and always try to improve yourself.

A common question which you may have noticed I have asked is how it feels to belong to a community such as Orchard Gardens and their answers are always roughly the same. They enjoyed being around people who have the same common interests. There is something for everyone at Orchard Gardens. When I came to the events at Orchard Gardens the atmosphere was calm and positive everyone made me feel welcomed and I don’t doubt for a second that they will do the same for you. I encourage all of you no matter your age to visit Orchard Gardens as there is something for you all and more to come.

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