When Sophie and I moved to The Grange in 2011 we knew we wanted to find a way to live a more sustainable life of our own – but also not to block out the massive changes and terrible suffering happening around the world. Sometimes coming face to face with some of that pain is difficult but if we can help in even a tiny way at least we are doing something.
Last week we welcomed several members from Room to Heal on a week long therapeutic retreat and some of the pain and suffering that results from persecution and torture literally came home to us. If you had been with us one night last week you would have seen 12 people from all over the world sharing food, cooking, playing music and games and learning new skills. However if you had stayed a little longer you might have started to hear tiny pieces of the fragments that make up a broken life – stories of being trafficked into slavery, 18 years spent in destitution waiting to find out if you are allowed to stay in this country, appalling tales of domestic abuse, dead family members, families left behind. It is hard to hear some of these stories but it also fires us up to want to do more.
The people staying with us last week are amazing. They have survived some of the worst that humanity can throw at each other and yet they somehow still have their inner fires burning. They still have the strength to hold on to, and share, their passions, skills and ideas. We can learn so much from them.
During last week’s retreat I led a walk around the beautiful arboretum at Lynford Hall in Mundford where we explored some of the ethics and principles of permaculture and thought about what we can learn from nature. Some of the discussions from that day have given me the energy I needed to re-visit an idea for a permaculture course designed specifically for asylum seekers and I am now developing this with the help of Mary Raphaely who is a psychotherapist and one of The Grange Elders. I am really excited about hopefully piloting a course provisionally called Growing Resilience next year.
Permaculturists and refugees have a huge amount to offer to each other. Permaculturists embrace the principle of ‘using and valuing diversity’ and can learn so much from the diverse cultures and wisdom of refugees. Refugees are displaced from their land and often lack connections and community and permaculturists can offer that in spades.