There must be something about the Cyrenians Farm. I don’t know if it’s the location, the reputation, the richness and abundance of the place or the people who live in it, but it attracts an incredibly diverse range of people.
Apart from the regular guests from our corporate volunteering days, the day volunteers, the school groups and people revisiting their past, we often get groups coming from far flung lands and far flung ideologies. Two groups come to mind that have visited recently.
The first was a group who come on a yearly visit from the Royal College of Defence Studies in London. Over the past few years they have sent a group of participants to the farm as part of a study of government and 3rd sector institutions. The idea of the course is to enrol retired senior ranking officers from various international forces and prepare them for jobs in governance throughout the world. I think, for them, it is useful to see and understand the kind of work that is required in the UK with regard to the services in our organisation and how social enterprise can be a creative tool in ensuring sustainability and creating opportunities for those on the margins of our community. I am always pleasantly surprised by the warmth and acceptance that such high ranking officials have for the kind of work we do. It’s also interesting to hear of experiences that these ex officers have had that draw parallels with our own work, in those cases where military organisations have been sent in to difficult circumstances to coordinate volunteers and literally and metaphorically build bridges. It takes a leap but you can see where they are coming from.
The other visiting group that comes to my mind is a group of government delegates and other officials from Khyber Phaktunkhwa in Pakistan. The Scottish government have an official framework of engagement with Pakistan that covers things like trade, infrastructure development and frequent exchanges of business delegates. It was a particular thread of this involving the Social Enterprise Academy that brought delegates here. In our case the delegates were investigating the viability of rural social enterprise and looking for insights as to the value of what we do. Having had a very busy schedule on their visit to Scotland it took the help of their taxi driver and the sight of one of our Scottish tea plants for them to get into the groove. Once they had engaged we showed them around the farm demonstrating our new Keder houses, orchard, propagation set up, and the field plots. They were keen to hear about the impact that opportunities on the farm have for our service users, how we develop relationships with corporate groups and large businesses and different ways to engage the whole community.
Delegates from KP in a Keder house at the farm.
It was a real honour to have such a group at the farm and they were very gracious in their approach. Their minister for agriculture Mr.Ikram ullah khan Gandapur was part of the group and a message was translated for me that he was impressed by the notion of rural social enterprise and was keen to take the idea back to Peshawar. I’d like to thank Mudassar Hafeez for facilitating the visit.
It is a real privilege to be involved in the development of such relationships and we can only hope that real strength and unity can come from it. In these tricky times such things are very important. Hopefully the Cyrenians farm and the charity as a whole can be involved in strengthening these bonds between such diverse groups.