In the two months since my last update, a lot has changed at Green Connect including staff coming and going, our new op shop opening, our office moving and lots of progress on our new farm entrance and children’s garden.
With all the uncertainty of the pandemic and lockdown, I’ve found myself having lots of conversations with staff, volunteers, customers, funders, suppliers and more about how they’re doing – and how I and Green Connect are doing. There have been heartbreaking moments, hopeful moments, challenging moments, and moments of joy.
I’ve been reminded personally, professionally and through others that our connection to other people and to nature are everything. For my part, I’ve tried my hand at gardening, cycling and upcycling recently, and I’ve been getting to know a couple of new young people and former refugees at work. I’ve met one of the newborn lambs at the farm, I’ve watched seeds that my kids planted shoot up in the early days of spring, and I’ve had deep conversations about happiness, hardship, ethics and the meaning of life. It has been a wonderful counterbalance to the hardships in our community and around the world just now.
If you, too, are doing it tough, try reaching out to someone or spend some time in nature. It really helps.
Now for an update of what’s happening at Green Connect…
It is no secret that 2020 has been a difficult year. One of the casualties of COVID-19 has been festivals and large events, which means that our Zero Waste arm has no work. While we will continue to offer Zero Waste services and look forward to them starting again when festivals do, our team can’t stay on hold forever. After exploring a range of options and in full discussion with our Zero Waste Manager, Jacqui Besgrove, we have made the difficult decision to deem the Zero Waste Manager role redundant.
Jacqui has worked for Green Connect for six and a half years. She worked with event organisers in Wollongong, Sydney and further afield to reduce waste coming in to events, and led teams of young people and former refugees to manage the waste at those events and ensure that as much as possible was recycled and composted. About finishing up in this role Jacqui said:
“My heart goes out to all my wonderful colleagues working in the event and entertainment industry who are doing it so tough right now. The last 6.5 years have been the hardest work in my 20 year career, and entirely worth it to support the amazing former refugees and young people who work for Green Connect. I have been humbled to be able to work alongside so many hard working, dedicated, intelligent and good humoured people who have all enriched my life and understanding of this world for the better. But this isn’t farewell, I’ll be staying closely connected to Green Connect and we’re part of the same permaculture community. My parting zero waste words are wherever possible refuse, reduce and compost, saving recycling as your last resort. Keep up the good work you waste warriors, salvage saviours, upcyclers, bower birds, scavengers, op shoppers and bin chickens – the world needs you more than ever!”
A huge thank you to Jacqui for bringing her passion for zero waste to Green Connect and for her leadership of teams no matter what the weather, waste or sudden changes of plans. There aren’t many people who can tackle the challenge of a field of rubbish after 15,000 partygoers have gone home, leaving their tents and other belongings behind, and make sure our staff on site are looked after, clear on what they need to do, and committed to keeping waste out of landfill.
Welcome Sarah, Lindsay and Isabel
Over the past few weeks we have welcomed three new faces to the Green Connect team – Sarah Grounds, Op Shop Manager, whose smiling face you may have seen if you’ve popped in to our new shop in Unanderra; Lindsay Burlton, Administration Coordinator who worked most recently at SCARF, one of our favourite organisations; and Isabel West, Fair Food Coordinator (pictured above at the smoking ceremony to open our new site), who has experienced almost every part of Green Connect over the two years she has worked casually with us and now takes up this permanent role with lots of fresh ideas for the farm and veg boxes.
Our Own Entrance at the Farm
For the last two years we have worked closely with Warrawong High School, the NSW Department of Education, and funders The Ian Potter Foundation and Westpac Foundation, to design and plan for our own entrance at the Green Connect Farm, rather than accessing the farm through the school.
We are very excited to share that the big move happened last Friday and that work will continue over the next three weeks to turn the three shipping containers we’ve called home for the past six years into something more fit-for-purpose for our growing number of staff and visitors to the farm.
We look forward to unveiling our new entrance and also the children’s garden, funded by My Community Project, in the next few months.
Upcoming Tours and Workshops
Our popular farm tours are back. New dates just released in time for the holidays! Bookings essential via the website. Be quick as we sold out last time!
$330 early bird price
At Green Connect’s urban farm, in Warrawong NSW join us for a weekend-long workshop with expert permaculturalist, John Champagne. This workshop is just the beginning for those with a passion for gardening resilience and sustainable lifestyles.
Op Shop Sale!
Spring is here and so is our op shop spring sale! From Saturday 12th until Wednesday 16th September, all our clothing prices will be halved: that’s $3 per item of adult clothing and $1.50 per item of children’s clothing. Come in and grab something new for your wardrobe, just in time for the better weather.
Find us at 37 Princes Highway, Unanderra in the big purple warehouse from 9:00am to 4:30pm Monday-Friday and from 9:00am to 2:00pm Saturdays!
End of Youth Employment Program Funding
Two years ago we secured NSW Government funding to pilot a youth employment program for those who need it most. In that time, we have engaged 105 young people in our program. 58 of them have moved into paid work, 40 have transitioned to long-term employment, and seven have already completed six months in employment.
Our program works, and has plenty of support from the government (“Green Connect’s program design has proven to be effective with its consistent delivery of employment outcomes.”), schools (“While the work, practical skills and experience is invaluable, it’s the confidence, enjoyment, sense of self and improvement in mental health that I see in young people as the real benefit. Without this program and programs like it, I believe a number of our students would have fallen through the cracks and be another negative statistic.”), employers (“[We] utilise a number of the Green Connect employees for various projects, we find the organisation to be very professional and responsive to our needs. The employees that are supplied are eager to work and do anything that is asked of them without issue.”) and young people (“It’s been hard to find work, both because of my tattoos and because I don’t have much prior experience. Green Connect has given me a job I love, working outside in nature with some great people.”).
Sadly, the funding is due to end in December 2020. We are currently advocating to both the NSW Government and the Federal Government to support employment-creating social enterprises like ours that place and keep people in meaningful work, improving lives, reducing welfare dependency, and benefitting the entire community; particularly in the context of high unemployment due to COVID-19.
If anyone reading this blog knows how we can ensure that this program continues, please get in touch with me as soon as possible.
As always, thank you for your support and involvement in what we do at Green Connect. It takes a village, and the village we have here in Wollongong is a very special one.