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From headlines to harvesting: How journalism led me to HavenWeb

Updated: Jul 12

I never planned on getting into gardening this year – yet here I am now, with a growing collection of potted plants and a daily watering routine.

Months ago, as a journalism student in Canterbury, I was scouring for local news stories when something caught my eye on Facebook: a “secret garden.” HavenWeb, a new start-up company with a mission of promoting sustainability through communal gardening, had a new garden at a top-secret location. Its map co-ordinates were set to be revealed on a specified date, at which point people were invited to attend and participate in the first of what would become weekly sessions.

No matter what your personal investment in gardening or sustainability may be, you have to applaud how innovative the idea was. How could I not be at least a little bit curious?

volunteer making spikes

On my course, we have assessed “newsdays” wherein we spend the day simulating a working newsroom. One of our upcoming radio newsdays fell upon Earth Day, and we were set to do an outside broadcast for the occasion. A secret garden story couldn’t have been more perfect.

To my delight, someone from HavenWeb agreed to meet for an interview. That’s when I met the founder of HavenWeb, the wonderful Maria Rampaouni. Not only did she give me fantastic material for our radio programme, but I was also inspired by the passion that shone through as she described the project, the ideals of HavenWeb and her vision of a sustainable future.

I already had what I needed, but something about Maria’s passion and the curiosity of the secret location made me decide that I would attend the first session. I had no idea what to expect, but if nothing else, I knew that an inevitable part of pursuing a career in journalism would be delving into the unknown. Trying out a new experience would make for good -- well -- experience.

volunteer planting tree

Maria wasn’t joking when she said the garden was in a secret location. Even with the co-ordinates at hand, I struggled to find it. Eventually, I stumbled upon a patch of greenery and group of people in the unlikeliest of places. The garden was wildly overgrown, but any nurseryman newbie could see that it had potential, with its grand layout and diverse array of untamed flora – it was just waiting to be nurtured into a picturesque paradise.

After introducing ourselves, we got to work. We clipped weeds, hacked off branches and gathered a huge pile of foliage for composting. Over the following weeks, we built a staircase, paved a path, and even planted some apple trees. Our progress was palpable and the difference in the garden’s appearance over the course of just a month was staggering.

On top of the invigorating fresh air and the satisfying sense of achievement, the sessions provided an opportunity to learn useful life skills, partake in a decent physical workout and a chance to socialise with lovely people from all walks of life.

volunteer planting tree

Despite going in with a shameful lack of gardening knowledge when I attended my first session, at no point did I ever feel unwelcome or out of place, as everyone was incredibly supportive and eager to share their expertise. Everyone involved – organisers and fellow participants alike – are always thoroughly kind, friendly and helpful.

HavenWeb is more than a mission – it’s a community, something all too important in a time when our collective mental health is constantly tested. It’s an opportunity to prepare for a sustainable future, but it’s also a shield against the looming loneliness, anxiety and depression that permeates too many of our lives.

It has been a joy to indulge in a new hobby for free and to socialise with such a pleasant group.  If you’re a Canterbury local who stumbled upon this blog out of curiosity, I implore you to take a chance, just like I did. If my story is anything to go by, regardless of your age, background or gardening expertise (or complete lack thereof), you are most welcome.

One day, when I have a garden to call mine, I’ll be prepped and ready to make a haven of my own – a place where I can reflect on my cherished memories of the ones who helped me on that journey.

Join Us:

To become part of our growing community, click the link to sign up for our next session. Together, we can make a difference—one plant at a time!

Together, we can make a significant difference, safeguarding the future of our Earth while supporting the UN and the UK in achieving their sustainability objectives, whilst building a strong community. SGD 2 ‘Zero Hunger’, SDG 3 ‘Good Health & Well-being’, SDG 4 ‘Quality Education’, SDG 11 ‘Sustainable Cities & Communities’, SDG 12 ‘Responsible Consumption & Production’ and SDG 15 ‘Life on Land’. 

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