19 May 2022

Tackle 10 gardens in 10 hours for locals in need? Challenge accepted

| James Coleman
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Man doing gardening

The 10/10 Project is held in May and October each year. Photo: Capital Region Community Services.

Pottering in the garden might be a joy for some, but for others, it can all be too much. To help those in need, Canberra has an army of volunteers wielding hedge trimmers, trowels and shovels to lend a hand.

Thirty volunteers descended on six homes across Canberra for this year’s 10/10 Project. The goal was simple: spruce up the yards of those who couldn’t do it themselves.

Capital Region Community Services (CRCS) convenes the project twice a year. After two years of pandemic and wet weather, they weren’t going to let anything stop them in 2022.

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Project manager Graham McKerchar describes it as a long and rewarding day.

“We start at 7 am and finish at 6 pm, depending on how much we have to wrap up on the day,” he says.

“It’s not a full-on garden make-over like what you see on reality TV. It’s about getting someone’s property to the point where they can take pride in it again.”

Man gardening

That should do the trick. Photo: Capital Region Community Services.

The project’s name is not only a play on the perfect score of ’10 out of 10′ but also the target of 10 homes in 10 hours. It kicked off in 2012 and has run every year, except for when COVID-19 threw a spanner under the lawnmower.

Graham describes the 10/10 Project as his baby.

“CRCS already provides in-home support in a lot of areas – family, youth, aged care, disability,” he says.

“For many of these people, it has got to the point where it’s impossible to manage their homes and gardens. We wanted to work out a way we could have a significant impact in their lives without a significant cost.”

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The first project in November 2012 attracted 20 to 30 volunteers, but the time of year may have been a mistake.

“It was so hot,” Graham says.

The project has now moved to April and October. Both Westpac and Housing ACT have come on board as sponsors, setting a number of days aside each year when their employees could volunteer in charity and community events. This provided the project with a weekday workforce.

It’s not just about beautification. It can mean the difference between having shelter and being homeless.

“People could be at risk of eviction based on the condition of their property,” Graham says. “Or there could be a significant fire risk, especially as we come into the fire season. And there could be mobility or safety issues.”

Woman gardening

The project is always looking for business sponsors to help cover the cost of waste removal. Photo: Capital Region Community Services.

Whatever the reason, there’s no judgment here.

“Everybody has a story about why their yards are in the condition they are in,” Graham says.

“We just come in to give them a helping hand.”

The reaction makes it all worth doing. People begin by looking out the window, overwhelmed by the sheer size of the job, to walking out the door near to tears, taking in the transformation.

“It’s amazing,” Graham says.

“There are all sorts of emotions that are part of the project.

“One of them even expressed how relieved and comfortable she now feels about her housing inspection coming up in two weeks. Seeing how much of a positive impact we have in the lives of people in our community makes our efforts incredibly rewarding and our commitment to continue stronger.”

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The 10/10 Project is always looking for more hands. Those wanting to get involved should reach out to the CRCS.

“We take on volunteers from the community, so in the lead up to a 10/10 Project, we put a call out,” Graham says.

“We also look at partnering with community businesses to assist in raising funds for the equipment we need, such as the skip bins.”

The date for the next 10/10 Project will be some time in October. Follow CRCS for updates.

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