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Lean on me!

Last September 200 people attended the grand opening of the Willow Tree recreation area at Outreach 3Way. Since then the coronavirus pandemic has changed the country dramatically; open spaces have been closed down, or access has been limited. However, this hasn’t stopped the creative processes behind the project planning further additions and improvements to bring the local community together.

This year the plan was to raise money for wheelchair accessible benches. At the start of the lockdown, staff from SMILE came together remotely to record the song “Lean On Me” to kick-start the fundraising through JustGiving. The song has raised £400, so far, which has funded two wheelchair accessible benches. These benches have a flat bench on one side and a space for a wheelchair on the other – perfect for the people Outreach 3Way support to have relaxed time, chat and engage in activities outside.

One of the two new accessible picnic benches

The recording was a lot of fun; Rob Goldsmith, who has previously assisted with various film-making activities, helped to put the video together. Staff made an amazing effort with individual singing contributions that were admired by all.


The Willow Tree project took 18 months, £24,000, a partnership with Thales, and the commitment of all involved to make a space better adapted and attractive for its visitors of all walks of life and disabilities. It is an amazing example of collaboration, of great minds coming together. The work and determination created an inclusive and safe community space that could be enjoyed in Crawley. At its heart was the idea that Willow Tree be a place for everyone to be included, happy and equal; it is the result of the relentless and devoted work of Hannah Duffy and her Outreach 3Way colleague, Tessa Claydon.

To complement the outside area, Richard Slater, one of Outreach 3Way’s relief support workers, contributed his amazing skills by making a table, some benches, and planters. All of which creates a more friendly, accessible and welcoming space.

Richard created a fabulous table and bench set

Improvements to the recreational area are ongoing and the wishlist is growing. Next up the team hope to purchase some sail shades for the area, to offer shade on those days when the sun is shining! If you would like to support this resource the JustGiving page is still running. Your support will spread the summer joy with everyone who will visit the Willow Tree Recreation area.

By volunteer story writer Agata Mastalerz