“I don’t have any sort of background in horticulture. For years I was a secondary school teacher, helping students learn Spanish and French, far removed from working outdoors on eco-projects like the Colin Allotments.
“A year or so ago, I took redundancy and I was really just looking for something to occupy my time. Friends who had allotments on the site invited me to see their plots so I decided to tag along.
“I was very impressed with what I saw and when I spoke to Groundwork about becoming a volunteer we agreed I would assist at the project for two days each week.
“I had absolutely no experience – the closest thing I had done to this was helping out on a farm when I was a student about 40 years ago.
“Yet, here I was hedge laying – removing undergrowth then using it to thicken hedge uprights into the ground, weaving thinner branches into the hedge – I tell you if jobs in hedge laying appear, I’ll be applying for them.
“I now have a personal allotment which I manage and this year has been very good for produce – I’ve grown potatoes, onions, garlic, turnip, beans and courgettes. I’ve made rhubarb jam, pickled beetroot, grown beans – all from skills I’ve gained this past year.
“I’m doing things I would have never done before through this volunteering opportunity – it’s a real change from what I did previously.
“Also, I haven’t bought vegetables from a supermarket for months – which has helped financially with the household budget – it’s been a great departure in my life.”
Gerry Lenaghan, aged 60, is a volunteer at the Colin Community Allotments, a Groundwork managed site in West Belfast. It has been part-funded by the European Union’s Peace III Programme, through the Sharing Our Space initiative.