Award for Green Back­yard ‘star’

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Uk&world Update - By STEPHEN BRIGGS

A MAN who hit a low when he was or­dered to carry out com­mu­nity ser­vice has now been given a top award af­ter turn­ing his life around.

For­mer self-em­ployed builder John Gar­ton (45) was forced to carry out 120 hours of com­mu­nity pay­back last year af­ter ad­mit­ting com­mit­ting what he de­scribed a “mi­nor mis­de­meanour”.

Mr Gar­ton, who is home­less, car­ried out his time at the Green Back­yard – a com­mu­nity project in Oun­dle Road, Wood­ston, Peter­bor­ough, which pro­motes healthy liv­ing and sus­tain­able life­styles by grow­ing a va­ri­ety of plants, fruit and veg­eta­bles.

But he en­joyed his time so much help­ing to con­struct sheds and grow veg­eta­bles at the scheme, when he fin­ished his com­mu­nity ser­vice Mr Gar­ton con­tin­ued to vol­un­teer at the Green Back­yard.

He even gave lessons to oth­ers on how to pluck pheas­ants and skin rab­bits.

And last month af­ter a year work­ing at the cen­tre, he was given an Adult Learn­ers’ Week Award for the ef­fort he has put in help­ing oth­ers at the project.

He said: “This is my sort of life­style. I have learnt so much while I have been here.

“When my busi­ness went un­der, I thought I should leave the rat race and this has been the per­fect op­por­tu­nity.

“Then Ja­nine Star­ling at Peter­bor­ough En­vi­ron­ment City Trust (PECT) nom­i­nated me for the award.

“I never ex­pected any­thing like this. I don’t think I have done that much to be con­sid­ered for an award, so to win it was a huge sur­prise.”

Along with a cer­tifi­cate, Mr Gar­ton was also given a £200 cash prize for his suc­cess – which he has do­nated to the project so other vol­un­teers can ben­e­fit.

He said: “I am un­em­ployed, I am home­less and I don’t claim ben­e­fits but I can come here and work ev­ery day, where I hope I can learn even more and help oth­ers learn too.

“I have been help­ing build a class­room and I hope the money can be used to fit that out.

“Vol­un­teer­ing here has been a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence for me. When I was a builder I was work­ing with brand new ma­te­ri­als, whereas here I work with scrap and re­claimed metal.

“It is a very dif­fer­ent tech­ni­cal skill and it has been dif­fi­cult to learn how to do it – but very en­joy­able. I want to thank the peo­ple at PECT and Renny and So­phie An­tonelli, who run the Green Back­yard, for giv­ing me this chance.”

Ja­nine Star­ling, sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties co­or­di­na­tor for PECT, who nom­i­nated Mr Gar­ton for the award said she had been as­tounded by the progress he had made in the last 12 months.

She said: “At the be­gin­ning John had no ex­pe­ri­ence of teach­ing and was quite shy speak­ing to groups of peo­ple.

“But since then he has shown tremen­dous devel­op­ment, car­ried out a num­ber of cour­ses and been in­volved in a num­ber of train­ing ses­sions. He has been a bit of a star to be hon­est. The way he has turned his life around has been amaz­ing.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about The Green Back­yard project, visit www.the­green­back­yard.com

changed man: John Gar­ton with his Adult Learn­ers’ Week Award.

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