This year we at MyBuilder, an online marketplace that helps homeowners find tradesmen, put out a call asking for stories of gardens that were in need of a makeover in our Grand for Your Garden Competition. We received entries from across the UK and opened them up to the public, leaving it up to them to decide who was most deserving of a new garden. The winner was Nicola Machin, a single mother from the Midlands. She has a young daughter, Ellie, who uses a wheelchair and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and hydrocephalus.
Nicola had entered a photo of Ellie in their unkempt garden, along with a caption that explained how the uneven slabs prevented Ellie from moving around freely outside. Ellie loves playing in the garden and planting seeds, but because their garden wasn’t accessible to her, she was prevented from doing something simple that would have a huge positive impact on both her happiness and development. Most local parks in their area aren’t disability-accessible and the family often decline invitations to summer barbeques at their friends’ houses because their homes aren’t disability-accessible either. Having a garden of their own that Ellie could spend time in would make the biggest difference to her social life, giving her a chance to interact easily with other children her own age. As a single mother, Nicola simply didn’t have the budget nor the time to give their garden the makeover it desperately needed.
That’s why winning the garden competition was such an exciting moment for their family – they had been waiting for a new garden for a long time without knowing if it would ever come to fruition. Now, with the help of votes from more than a thousand strangers, it was.
Landscape gardener Chris Gilbert designed a garden that would be simple and accessible for Ellie. He spent a week working hard, with help along the way from some MyBuilder team members, before the garden was ready. Even before it was completely finished, Ellie’s sister was bringing her friends round to play and the house was filled with a lot more camaraderie than ever before.
For MyBuilder, it was a chance to contribute positively to the day-to-day life of a single-parent family that was dealing with a significant disability everyday. Struggling families raising a child with disabilities don’t get funding to do up their gardens, an outdoor space that is considered a luxury rather than a need. But in completing this project, the team was able to see that making structural changes to create interactive spaces for children with disabilities can significantly improve their lives.
Jerry Clark, MyBuilder