Belfast Telegraph

A big deal going on in the garden

by Fiona Rutherford

Young people from Newtownabbey were celebrating recently after a Big Lottery Fund windfall from its Big Deal Small Grants Programme.

St James' Primary School received £2,500 towards its allotment garden which is now well underway.

“We were absolutely delighted to receive this funding as it's made this project possible,” explained senior teacher Elaine Dallat.

“After school broke up in June we left some dads already digging out the area we plan to transform into our allotment garden. One of the most important things was to get our resident frogs moved into the new pond we've included — and now that's been successfully completed.”

Thanks to the project each year group in the school, including its nursery section, will have a bed in which to grow their own flowers and vegetables.

“We started something like this last year and grew enough vegetables to be able to make our own vegetable soup when everything ripened,” continued Elaine.

“The project works on so many levels. In terms of the curriculum it means the children can get outside and enjoy active learning, while it also gives them a chance to learn about healthy eating by growing their own vegetables and fruit.

“We encourage them to compost as well so they get to understand the natural cycle.

“The smaller scale project we undertook last year was so successful that some families are now growing their own at home now too, after seeing how straightforward it really is.”

The Big Deal Project Officer, Niamh O' Carolan, said “once children and young people become engaged in activities like these they tend to stay interested and get involved more in what's going on around them in their local communities and beyond”.

The Big Deal Small Grants Programme, administered by Youthnet, was set up in 2006 and has been funded to the tune of £1.5m by the Big Lottery Fund.

The Small Grants Programme is now closed for applications and all programme activity will come to an end in December 2010.

The programme allows those up to 25 years of age to apply for an award between £500 and £2,500 towards a project of which they get to decide the exact details for themselves.

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