Cultivating Community: The Heartwarming Journey of Brighten Highfield

In a world where connection often feels distant, where neighbors remain unfamiliar faces, and where community spirit can waver, there are stories that shine bright with hope and perseverance. The tale of the Brighten Highfield Project is one such heartwarming narrative that underscores the power of unity and the transformative impact of nurturing the land and bonds within a community.

The Roots of Resilience

The story began in 2020 when Sarah embarked on a mission to provide accessible, locally grown food to residents while fostering a sense of unity and resilience for her community, through her organisation, Ourlives.Gateshead C.I.C. Amidst the uncertainty and challenges of the pandemic, the project recognized the importance of reducing food mileage and promoting self-sufficiency. Chopwell, a vibrant community, became the canvas for this initiative, receiving three planters brimming with edibles that served as a beacon of hope during a time of scarcity.

Planting Seeds of Hope

The planters were more than just sources of sustenance; they were vessels of creativity and positivity. Workshops were organized at each planter, allowing residents to inscribe messages of hope, creating a tapestry of encouragement that spanned the neighborhood. It wasn’t just about growing food; it was about nurturing spirits and fostering a shared sense of belonging.

A Blossoming Partnership

This was only possible thanks to the support of the Blue Stone Consortium as part of the WELL project. After applying for further funding from The National Lottery, the project was able to expand its reach to Highfield, adding to its efforts by installing a memorial bench as a tribute to the very essence that birthed the Ourlives.Gateshead C.I.C (read more here). The community spirit was infectious, and more planters were added to support ongoing projects, linking various initiatives within the village.

Through the Years

The history of community-driven projects in the area is a testament to resilience. A collective effort that started in 1993 by John Tindale and John Haige, which sadly came to an end after the death of John Tindale in 2003. Awards won 

A Community United

Individuals like Kathleen and Eddy emerged as unsung heroes, devoting their time and energy to planting the seeds of positive change. Their passion radiated along their street, East View, inspiring others to join in. They soon extended their green influence to Dene View, encompassing more streets and uniting them in a common cause.

Kathleen and Eddy’s decision to keep their street looking beautiful back in 2016 has resulted in over 500 daffodils, 200 perennials, and more than 50 filled planter pots. Awards werent won.. yet, memories were made, and the legacy lives on.

Under the meticulous watch of Kathleen and Eddy, spearheading the project with watering schedules, the transformation escalates relentlessly. Remarkably, for the first time, the inception of OurLives brought them the backing they never had—the freedom from financing planters out of their own pockets and ability to reach further into the community. 

Growth Beyond Boundaries

Peter and Esther’s love for their parents blossomed into a serene memorial garden. Five planters now grace the transformed concrete island. They envision nurturing not only flora but also the red kites that grace the skies. Their aspirations symbolize the very essence of what Making Changes NE is and what Ourlives was – growth, connection, and transformation. This would not have been possible without the funding provided, and has helped lift spirits and add beauty and nature back into the lives of the people in Highfield. 

Planting Unity

More than just planters, these vibrant symbols have brought people together. They’ve created their own micro-communities, each with a unique purpose. Chopwell’s allotment group and local families tend to the planters, East View’s and Dene View’s residents collectively nurture their green spaces, and even schools and nurseries participate in caring for certain planters. We have added 23 planters to the collection in total over the years and help facilitate the maintenance by locals.

A Future of Abundance

Making Changes NE will continue this vision of cultivating beauty, unity, and sustainability. We are working towards securing more funding, in the hopes that the project’s roots will deepen, and its branches will spread further, embracing all corners of the community.

In the tapestry of life, Making Changes NE stands as a vibrant thread, weaving resilience, unity, and hope. Through planters that nourish bodies and spirits, this initiative redefines what it means to cultivate a community. As the seasons change and the plants grow, so too does the bond between neighbors, proving that even amidst challenges, a shared purpose can blossom into something extraordinary.

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