Creating opportunities for a happier and healthier life through community focus
Sarah joined Halifax Opportunities Trust (HOT) in 2011 and is behind all the wonderful projects and activities that take place at The Outback Community Kitchen and Garden. While Sarah originally started at the Trust as a Project Delivery Leader for our Children and Families team, she has embraced her current role in a completely new specialism to drive forward awareness and delivery of community and wellbeing projects, with a specific aim to bring healthy practices to the local community.
From open gardens to healthy cooking workshops, beekeeping and volunteering, there’s a wide range of horticultural and wellbeing activities hosted at the Outback, which Sarah has built over the years. In turn, this has been acknowledged through the recent awards our green space has received.
In her previous role, Sarah was commuting to Wakefield from Halifax to support and set-up Sure Start Centres. When a similar role was advertised locally to her at one of our Children’s Centres, Sarah applied so she could better fulfil her work-life balance; having two young children meant that working closer to home was important to her.
Being based locally meant that Sarah had a better understanding of the areas in which HOT operated and could collaborate with local community partners and organisations. As the Trust grew and the Outback became a valuable and ongoing project, it required dedicated management. Sarah reminisces:
“If someone had told me when I was first in post working mainly on setting up systems for capturing and reporting service outcomes, that I would be project managing a community kitchen and garden with health and wellbeing as its focus, I don’t think I would have believed it!”
Managing the Outback Community Kitchen and Garden is a varied and demanding role. Sarah works with a team of employees and volunteers to ensure the garden is thriving and ready to grow seasonal produce in Spring and Summer, so the Kitchen is able to run workshops and Tuesday Takeaways. This makes these periods busy for Sarah and the team.
Of course, with the space being mainly outdoors, it was particularly popular as COVID restrictions lifted in 2021. From April to September of that year, the Outback was without a Community Gardener, which meant an ‘all hands-on deck’ approach. Sarah reflects:
“Demand to use the garden was high and I was so worried about how we could keep it well maintained and have a productive growing season. The amazing volunteers did not hesitate to step up and really pulled together as a team to ensure the garden was well looked after, weeds were kept at bay, the beds and polytunnels were packed full of produce and I felt so proud to be part of such a fabulous community project.”
A Place for Community
The Outback is truly a space for community and this is reflected in the community feel Sarah and her team have built. This extends to those participating in workshops and hosting events at the green space; everyone is welcome.
As the Outback has grown, its range of produce has too. Each year the team is able to offer a whole host of local, naturally grown and healthy fruit, veg and preserves that are used in healthy meals at the regular Tuesday Takeaway and sold at local events, festivals and markets. This reinforces the Outback’s community presence and helps to cover some of its running costs. Sarah comments:
“A few of my favourite memories have been decorating the HOT Christmas tree at the Minster with volunteers and participants, selling Outback fruit and veg on market stalls at the Piece Hall and Calderdale College, the highs and the lows of last year’s honey production and the many wonderful community events where Alison J and Anila always seem to miraculously feed hundreds of people using bits of produce from the garden and a few basic pantry items!”
Sarah has helped the Outback to grow and thrive, not only through the abundant produce, workshops and activities it delivers, but in ensuring the local community understands and gets involved in health and wellbeing projects that lead to a more fulfilled life.
This has not gone unnoticed. In November 2022, the Outback was acknowledged for the work it does with two awards; West Yorkshire High Sheriff certificate and a Calderdale Community Spirit award. Sarah Celebrates:
“These awards were received within the space of a few weeks of each other. The evening spent with colleagues and volunteers at the Calderdale Community Spirit awards was a lovely way to celebrate our achievements.”
As we celebrate our 21st Anniversary, we are looking back on the many opportunities we have created for individuals, families, businesses and the community. This means something different to everyone, and Sarah’s commitment over the years has seen many opportunities present themselves. To her, ‘creating opportunities’ means:
“We don’t just offer a one size fits all service or do something because it’s always been done.
We listen to what people tell us about how to help them to improve their lives and we work together to creatively find ways in which we can meet those needs.”
In the past decade the Trust has changed and adapted in many ways, to accommodate the needs of the community. This means that Sarah has seen HOT evolve to ensure people are at the heart of everything we do, from staff to volunteers, participants to Trustees. She comments:
“From the Children’s Centres team to the other HOT projects and our wonderful Outback volunteers, I feel really lucky to work alongside the most dedicated, caring and friendly people.
To Sarah, Halifax Opportunities Trust is all about: “Helping equip people with the tools they need to thrive.”
A Brighter Future
Our 21st birthday doesn’t only mean we’re looking back on our impact over the years, it gives us the opportunity to look forward and establish plans for the future. Sarah is positive that the future has lots of great things in store to ensure the 1,700 people we reach each day are able to build a better life, and is excited to be a part of this.
“I really like how in HOT we are always looking at how we can improve or develop what we offer.
In the future, I think HOT will continue to evolve, developing new services and strong partnerships to best meet the needs of the communities it serves.”