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Permacham – “Champ à Mailles”

“Champ à Mailles” (aka “Cham”) is the collective, participatory and intergenerational vegetable garden of Maison Verte et Bleue, where Brussels residents from all backgrounds can meet each other and develop nourishing bonds with their community.

Located in the heart of Neerpede in Anderlecht, this small island of biodiversity offers to the city’s inhabitants the opportunity to recharge their batteries. In addition to being a place where people can take care of themselves and others, Cham also provides the necessary space to experiment and reconnect with the living. Thanks to production methods based on agroecology and permaculture, people learn as a group to understand the natural world surrounding them and to take care of the earth.

Thanks to Mindchangers, Cham has received the necessary support to make one of its dreams come true and opened its doors to young people from the surrounding neighbourhoods. In order to reach out to those teenagers, the team turned to associations and people who had already built trust with them. They organised specific activities to introduce young participants to agroecology in an urban environment. They also welcomed Cultureghem, another local association, on several occasions so that children, teenagers and adults alike could celebrate the seasons in the garden and share a meal which they prepared together.

In addition to those activities, Maison Verte et Bleue also collaborated with Pour la solidarité, an independent European think & do tank committed to promoting solidarity and sustainability in Europe. They invited young people involved in the “100% Youth” project* to create bridges between the virtual and the living worlds. The youths participated in a series of workshops in the garden to learn how to film with a smartphone. The hands-on experience they gained there opened up new perspectives on what is possible, and encouraged them to question our relationship to the living world and to our dominant food production system.

By relying on the philosophy of permaculture to build group dynamics, the team hopes to have succeeded in showing the youths that it is possible to create places of trust, compassion, and mutual respect where we can all learn to understand and value each other’s strengths and work together despite our differences.

The PermaCham project has been quite the adventure, full of surprises, twists and turns as well as learning. Throughout the journey and during the many meetings that were held with other associations, the project team came to realise how difficult it was to reach out to young people.

Thanks to Mindchangers, they have been able to build great synergies with other actors in the youth sector, allowing them to keep playing an important part in inspiring positive individual and community change among young people.

* 100% Youth is a unique programme supporting Brussels youths aged 18 to 29 and who are neither working, nor in training or in school.