How to shift a tonne of compost

So there we were, three of us, in my Vauxhall Zafira on a dull Autumn morning, on a weigh bridge at the entrance to a recycling plant, shouting up through the car window to ask if it was ok if we came to pick up a tonne of compost. After a ‘let me make a few calls’ response from the booth I wound the window up again as quickly as possible and re-parked the car out of the way of the rubbish trucks lining up behind us, as the smell of rotting rubbish started to fill up the car.

It couldn't be a much more different setting to where I was 24 hours earlier; part of the team running Shared Health Foundation's GP Study day at the Gorton Monastery, an beautiful historic building providing excellent service for some of the country's best hearts and minds who deal with other people's crises every day of their lives and have a passion to bring change and restoration. 

The study day was particularly for Doctors who work in areas of Deprivation. GPs who work with patients with multiple complex problems, whose life has often got a bit too much for them to manage. Throughout the day there were stories of sorrow, statistics of multiple disadvantage and despair, tales of the growing problem of homelessness, of abused lives, benefit difficulties, non-compliant patients, financial and time pressures and GPs really in it at the Deep End. Even so, this certainly wasn't a day without hope. 

Throughout it was clearly demonstrated that with a different perspective, a new approach and a well-functioning team with a relationship built on mutual trust and respect; change and then growth can and definitely does occur. It starts in small pockets, off the beaten track where the majority don't care to venture. It starts with people who just need a seed of hope and a helping hand to have the courage to improve their lives. Then, before you know it, individuals, households and in time whole communities can be, and are being transformed. When someone refuses to write off those for whom life has unravelled, often that seed of hope can blossom and start to grow into a mighty tree to sustain itself and eventually bring life to others. Sometimes all we need to know is that someone believes in us. 

Back at the rubbish tip I was slightly bemused. We had literally come to collect one tonne of compost in a seven seater family car. As a community patient gardening project at a local GP Surgery we'd been generously donated 60 bags of the peat-free organic wonder stuff by Viridor and we'd decided to see if we had what it takes to transport a tonne of compost across Oldham. 

As it turned out it seemed the car suspension would only manage 100 litres at a time, so we loaded up and weighed out just six bags into the back and carefully navigated the speed bumps on the way. The site manager had kindly set us up an ‘account’ to keep track of how much compost we had taken so when we go back they'd know how much we were still due. 

We drove back to the surgery, pleased with our first fruits, glad to have ventured out and now wracking our brains to think of how to transport the remaining 54 bags in a manageable way that didn't particularly involve nine more trips across Oldham and back, though if it comes to that, we will. A social media post or two later it turns out that a colleague has a van we can borrow to help shift the rest. Now we just have to arrange that with the site. 

Soon we will have 60 bags of people's old forgotten left-overs made into something new, useful, community sourced and giving life and education to others to start to thrive. 

So how do you shift a tonne of compost? With teamwork, community spirit, shared resources, mutual support, determination and in manageable chunks.

Not so different to those who bring change in areas of deprivation after all.

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These blog posts are from members of the Shared Health Foundation team and their partners.