HANDING over a cheque for €12,000 to a children’s cancer charity has capped a ‘superb year’ for the Open Gardens / Jardins Ouverts scheme, founder Mick Moat said.
Three years after the organisation was founded, with four gardens in the Creuse, there are now 120 gardens in the association in 26 departments, and a further 20 have already pre-registered for 2017 and several others showing interest.
Visitors paid €5 for a one-off visit or €10 for a membership card and sometimes bought plants or refreshments with proceeds going to charity.
The association raised a record €23,000 – with the bulk of the money, €12,000, going to A Chacun son Everest which runs courses in the Alps to help children and women who are in remission from cancer but need help restoring their confidence after treatment.
The cheque for A Chacun son Everest was handed over at the prestigious French gardening show, Journées des Plantes de Chantilly, where Open Gardens had top billing and has been asked to come back in future years.
The cheque was given to six-year-old cancer survivor Orane, who has benefited from one of the courses run by the charity. “To see that little girl receiving that cheque was wonderful,” said Mr Moat.
“We have also heard back from other charities who have told us that they have been able to develop new projects due to our donations.
“It is lovely to think that the money visitors are giving and the work of the gardeners is making a difference to the lives of the children and adults concerned by the charities.”
Another €4,000 has been split between seven other charities:
- Le Dauphin Corse: which handicapped people rediscover their joie de vivre
- Réseau Bulle: a network of assistance and support for families and individuals affected by autism
- Quelque Chose en Plus: helps those aged 5-20 who suffer from a variety of disabilities
- Rigolopito: clowns visit children in hospitals in Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrenées
- Association Française du Syndrome de Costello et Cardio-Facio-Cutané: for people affected by a rare disease characterised by postnatal growth retardation, skin and heart abnormalities and mental retardation
- Association Bouée d’Espoir: it helps people who are at risk of marginalisation due to difficulties, distress and despair and sets them back on a positive path in life
- Les Chiens Guides d’Aveugles de l’Ouest: trains and places guide dogs for blind and partially sighted people
The remaining money is used to cover the scheme’s running costs. In the long term, the aim is to cover these overheads by attracting sponsorship, allowing all donations to go directly to charity.
Once a charity has been adopted by Open Gardens it will receive money every year and the association hopes to add other causes in future years.
Mr Moat hopes to have 200 gardens signed up by the end of 2017: “We would like to see an increase in French gardeners who make up about 25% of our gardens and I would like to get that up to 50% or over within three to four years and we want to see gardens in more departments so that as much of France is covered as possible.”
He also revealed some ‘exceptional gardens in France’, which you usually have to pay to visit, have agreed to open up for one or two days a year for Open Garden members.
Open Gardens/Jardins Ouverts is keen to attract more gardens: “Every time one opens we are able to raise more money,” says Mr Moat.
“If you think that visitors would enjoy spending 30 minutes in your garden, please do get in contact with us.
“If you have a very small garden or a courtyard you can team up with another local person so that any visitor can see both and we have several examples where people have done just that.
“People who open their gardens tell me that they get a great deal of pleasure from sharing their plants and experiences with visitors, as well as knowing they are helping seriously ill children. There isn’t a downside.”
The association would also like to hear from anyone who would be interested in being an area co-ordinator: “It needn’t take up much time,” said Mr Moat. “It’s a question of visiting new gardens and advising them about how to go about taking part in the scheme and finding other gardeners who would like to join.”