Happy New Year,
We have been fortunate to share the last five years of our lives (and all of Orianna's four years) with some of the most amazing, resilient people from all over the world. Since 2011, we have welcomed more than 1000 people to The Grange including more than 400 who have been forced to flee from persecution. It is very difficult to measure the impact of what we have done but three things give us confidence both that it has made a significant difference, and also to now welcome new live-in coordinators to The Grange to build on what we have started.
Firstly, and most importantly, the feedback we get from those who come and stay. We have two full visitor books and a folder full of feedback that are testimony to the immediate feelings of people who have stayed at The Grange. Sandy James carried out a narrative evaluation of our most recent visitor book and produced this word cloud which gives a visual idea of the main themes in the book. Often even more powerful are the conversations we have with people, often as they prepare to leave The Grange, when many people speak of the strength they have found in being here. People talk of feeling empowered, often for the first time in years; of the power of connecting with the land and with other people; and of being made to feel safe and welcome.
The second thing that gives us confidence is the amount of interest we receive from all over the UK and around the world in what we are doing. This year alone we have welcomed people from at least 20 other projects interested to learn from The Grange, and fielded dozens of phone calls and e-mails. There is a real interest in how to run a project that meets all the permaculture ethics of people care, earth care and fair shares - and many people show a particular desire to offer support and sanctuary to people who have fled persecution. The level of interest has given us the confidence to launch a new programme called 'Gardens of Sanctuary' which will offer support, training and accreditation to groups around the UK offering a welcome to refugees and asylum seekers [more details to come soon].
Finally, there is the support we receive from the local community. The Grange is in the small village of Great Cressingham which has a population of around 200. From the beginning we have felt a real warmth from the community and many people who stay tell stories of how they have been made to feel welcome not just to The Grange but to the village as a whole. Support from the wider area has also been vital and we are blessed to have some extraordinary volunteers who come every Wednesday to our Workdays and who support The Grange in countless other ways.
Living at The Grange and running the project has by no means been an easy path. There have been significant challenges along the way but, thanks to the support of friends and family, The Elders and others we feel proud of what we have achieved and believe The Grange is now ready for new people to come in and offer new energy and ideas.
Ben and Sophie will remain very involved with Ben continuing as Director and being based at The Grange one or two days a week including on Workday Wednesdays. We will also remain on the board which has now been expanded to include six members. There are details of all the board members on our web site which we encourage you to visit.
2017 will be a time of fantastic new opportunities at The Grange and we invite you to get involved in any way you can. Workday Wednesdays are a great way to find out more about what we do and we invite you to get in touch if you would like to come one week. There will also be more internships, courses and many other opportunities . Some ideas can be found on the Get Involved pages of our web site but if you have any ideas at all do get in touch.
We wish you all a peaceful 2017,
Ben Margolis and Sophie North
Co-founders of The Grange