Sam Holt began this journey working on his allotment in Cardiff. He volunteered to become a committee member and took on an active role in the development and growth of those allotments. In his position as facilitator he developed a liaison with organisations and funding bodies, and hosted and facilitated for the probation payback service.
A year later he again took on a voluntary position as garden manager for the Riverside Community Gardens. During all this time he grew, from the roots of his passion for gardening and keeping chickens and ducks, the fresh shoots of a small business.
It was, therefore, just a small step for him to take his passions a little further into the community and use his, by now, considerable experience and network of contacts to organise and carry out projects to develop sustainable green areas in and around the city and its schools.
He has been able to successfully organise many community projects:
- "Under Sam's leadership, Riverside Community Garden has become a place of inspiration." Isla Horton, Community Outreach Worker, of Cardiff's Riverside Community Garden Project New Award
- apple collection for Orchard Cardiff to make apple juice, apple rings and apple leather
- constructing alternative growing systems: Hugelkultur beds, recycled material planters
- significantly improving and effectively using green spaces
- Lead Grower and Set Builder with the production of "The Transplantable Living Room"
- set up the Cardiff Hops Group to grow hops on any available space to use in producing a Cardiff brew - The Taff Temptress
- transforming areas from virtual wasteland into community resources
- developing Taff Housing Community Garden
- supported funding for, and developed Cathays Community Centre gardens, installing musical instruments, building herb spiral with the help of children with learning difficulties
In June 2013 Sam was given an award by the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) as "National Volunteer of the Year - Green/Environment" for his work with communities. Below is the announcement taken from the WCVA site:
Green category - Sam Holt, Cardiff
'What Mozart is to notes and music, Sam Holt is to spuds, salads, strawberries and a sustainable city,' is the way in which nominator Isla Horton, Community Outreach Worker, of Cardiff's Riverside Community Garden Project described the 31-year-old Project Manager and Volunteer Co-ordinator.
'Without Sam taking the helm, the garden would most likely have had to close its gates by now. Instead, under his care, it had flourished, with more than 140 volunteers collectively clocking up 4,500 hours of time on the garden in just the past six months.'
'He deftly juggles the needs of the garden and the volunteers who come from all walks of life - some with mental health issues, some very shy and isolated, some in recovery from addiction, some with learning disabilities and home education families,' said Isla.
'As well as expertly managing the fruit trees, vegetables, herbs, polytunnel salads and pond, Sam has also garnered the volunteers' enthusiasm for creating and building projects, overseeing the re-covering of an old polytunnel and creating a shelter for volunteers out of recycled pallets.'
'Under Sam's leadership, Riverside Community Garden has become a place of inspiration and people visit from across South Wales- even around the world.'
New Award Received
left to right: Isla Horton, Matthew Blick, Monica Nobrega, Jenny Howell, Sam Holt, Dipak Parekh
Riverside Community Garden Project has recently won two awards.
Sam and Isla, both proud employees of RCMA Social Enterprise Ltd "The RCMA Farmers Market", collected an award on behalf of Riverside community garden and all its amazing volunteers, visitors and supporters for Best Community Growing Project 2013 for Community Food Growing as judged by Keep Wales Tidy - Cadwch Gymru'n Daclus.
The Green Wood Workers, a separate sub-group made up of Riverside Community members, also collected an award for Recycling Innovation.
Best in Category - "Riverside community garden give Lloyds group a top day in the community".
with Sam Holt at Riverside Community Garden Project.
Sam hosted a corporate volunteer day for Lloyds Bank on a non work day for their day in the community.
Says Sam, "They helped build sumps for the manure to make the car park and pathways healthier for the volunteers and the school outreach work. Another job they helped with was laying the incredible new flat base for the cooking area.
Finally, they helped with moving a shed for Green Wood Working storage. Quite an achievement considering it was in one piece and they had to work as a team carry it around the pond, nearly falling in. Someone has a film of this.
The coordinator did a writeup for it, and for other Lloyds community days.
The big bosses selected our day as best day in July!"
NIACE Inspire! Mentor of the Year 2014
Sam receives yet another award for his work with the community
Sam & Harry Poole with Nia Parry [presenter].
This is quoted from the award ceremony booklet...
Sam Holt goes above and beyond his call of duty as manager of Riverside Community Gardens.
Encouraging a stress-free, supportive environment, his volunteers describe the atmosphere there as feeling 'like a family'.
On projects such as Riverside Play Centre and training schemes as part of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Sam works with volunteers, some of whom suffer with mental and physical illness.
Dipak Parekh joined the project as a volunteer in June 2013 for physical and mental exercise to help overcome illness.
"I found Sam to be immediately warm and welcoming, putting my mind at ease straight away," said Dipak.
"Sam took time out of his very busy days to get to know my health needs and the needs of others, and responded accordingly.
Sam promotes a stress-free, supportive environment where we have become a close-knit family and the environment has improved my physical and mental health dramatically.
I find Sam to be inspirational because he seems to have the ability to draw the best out of all of us, by making us feel a part of projects he is personally leading.
Sam taught me that you are never without hope, there is always more to learn. You just need to find your passion."
Sam was given the Volunteer Mentor Award 2014 first and at the end of the ceremony there was another section recognising outstanding performance by mentors and learners. Sam was selected to receive the award in the mentor category and was declared "NIACE Inspire! Mentor of the Year 2014".
In the other category the award for, "NIACE Inspire! Learner of the Year 2014" went to Harry Poole with whom Sam had worked on a community garden project early in 2014.
Sam Holt - NIACE Inspire! Mentor of the Year 2014
The Transplantable Living Room Performance