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Kyra’s story: helping Open Gardens grow

Kyra Dickinson in her garden© InfoAs a teenager, Kyra volunteered for the Red Cross in France. Little did she realise what a huge role the organisation would come to play in her life. She remembers: “It went out of my life – I started studying, got married and moved to England to have a family.”

Years later, she rekindled the relationship. She says: “I just suddenly thought: I must go back to the Red Cross.” Now, Kyra has volunteered with the British Red Cross in Northumberland for 48 years, where she has been instrumental in developing Open Gardens.

Valued volunteers

Kyra recognises it is the hard work of volunteers that makes the scheme so successful. She says: “We try and make sure that someone from the Red Cross goes to talk to the volunteers and garden opener and say thank you. You can’t take people for granted, especially when we’re a volunteer organisation.

“We make an enormous amount of money each summer – between £30,000 and £40,000 – and the name of the Red Cross gets widely publicised. Open Gardens are fantastic from that point of view – a little table with gazebo and one of the volunteers explaining the Red Cross to everyone who passes.”

Delight in the details

Each Open Garden has had a lot of thought put into it. Kyra explains: “There are lots of details involved. You have to think about plants, stalls, chairs, tables and the state of marquee – whether it’s blown away or has holes everywhere. You need to have your garden in the most immaculate state. I also make around 45 enormous cakes, huge enough to each serve ten people. The minute visitors come through gate they ask: ‘Is tea ready?’”

Despite the challenges, she would recommend the experience to anyone. She says: “It’s exhausting, but very rewarding to see how many people enjoy coming to the garden. People are just amazing, they still come whether it’s raining or it’s a beautiful sunny day. We always get people coming with their umbrellas and wellington boots. That’s something I try to convey to potential garden openers: it gives so much pleasure.”

Kyra has dedicated many years of her life to the Red Cross, and has no doubt that it will be a life-long relationship. She says: “Volunteering for the Red Cross is extremely rewarding. It gives you such a boost. You cannot think of doing other things, instead you just want to do all you can for the organisation. Once you’re in the Red Cross you’re in it for life - that’s how I feel and how I know a lot of other people feel. It is a wonderful position to be in, I’ve loved every minute.”

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