Project Leader & Founder of The Papillon Project
We are all from different backgrounds and walks of life, but we all collectively, and positively, work together to enrich and develop The Papillon Project. We are all very friendly, approachable, incredibly dedicated and really value each other's areas of experience and expertise. We also enjoy laughing at each others jokes and funny stories from time to time!
The Papillon Project is made of three main groups that make our charitable work possible:
They have ultimate responsibility for The Papillon Project as a charity and our accountable to The Charity Commission.
These people work together, as a team, to run The Papillon Project on a day-to-day basis. At present, all members of this group are unpaid volunteers.
This group of people form a vital focus group who, as willing unpaid volunteers, come together to help raise the crucial funds needed for The Papillon Project. Our 'Pap Up' Shop (or Papillon Upcycling Shop) forms part of this group and is another way that we ethically raise funds for our charity.
Matt was born and raised in Sussex. Unlike most state schools, Matt's former school (Oathall) has a working school farm and market gardens which continues to offer a wonderful educational experience for many youngsters.
Matt studied history at the University of East Anglia, which included environmental history. He was particularly interested in the ‘wood shortage crisis’ which emerged during the early modern period. As a postgraduate, Matt completed fieldwork in post-war Bosnia to study how natural surroundings might help heal the wounds of war. Since university, he has worked and taught in rural Uganda where local food is grown because, with no local supermarkets, there was no alternative!
Matt has also visited Cuba to see the island’s success at growing food locally, without fossil fuels. He has also held an allotment in Norwich, has completed an ‘Introduction to Permaculture’ course and has a Permaculture Design Certificate.
As a qualified humanities teacher Matt has taught mainly history at Reepham High School & College. He has reduced his teaching commitment so that he can concentrate on setting up The Papillon Project. This has grown out of 'The Allotment Project' which Matt began in 2014 at the School.
In 2018 his work here won him the Royal Horticultural Society's ‘School Gardening Champion of the Year’ award, which included meeting HRH The Prince of Wales. You can get a very clear sense of why Matt is ‘positively bonkers’ about trying to engage the next generation to grow their own food by viewing this nomination video (made without his knowledge) for this award here:
Matt went on to win the 'Norwich and Norfolk Eco Hero Award', by public vote in 2019 with over 3000 people voting for him. He has published many articles, spoken publicly about his work and has made numerous TV appearances. He lives with his wonderful wife on a small-holding in rural North Norfolk along with some lovely animals including Dumbledora the Basset Hound. Matt says:
“Going to school simply has to be more about just tests and exams. These are, of course, really important, but, encouraging and skilling our children and young people to lead lives that work with, and not against, nature is of the greatest urgency… The Papillon Project is all about doing this across Norfolk, by supporting High Schools and their local communities to set up an allotment project.
A school allotment is a place for young people, designed with them and to inspire them, so they can inspire each other to grow their own food and so help to restore and work with nature, mediate the impact of climate change and promote their own physical and mental well-being.”
Louis discovered his interest in filmmaking after volunteering to produce and direct Matt Willer's nomination film for School Gardening Champion of the Year in 2018.
After receiving praise and commendation for his own work on the film, he then went on to produce a short documentary 'The Allotment Project', using the footage from the nomination film, specifically about the project at Reepham High School. This gives people insight into how the project runs and is why it is successful. It also won an international film award: WWOOF's Future Food and Farming Youth Video Awards (September 2019). You can view the video, and others on the ‘Our Work’ section of this website
Today, Louis is working with The Papillon Project to advise and produce new video content, with the aim of disseminating the idea and some of the approaches and techniques to school gardening. This is helping 'The Papillon Project's' values and learning to reach a wider audience.
Debbie spent much of her childhood outside in a fairly wild ‘garden’ climbing trees and digging holes. She was given her own small garden at a young age and has always had an interest in things that grow, whether in the garden or the countryside. Debbie has a huge passion for the environment and humanity’s relationship with nature. This human relationship with nature was kindled around the time Debbie had her own children. She noticed, with fascination, how her children felt towards the world around them; from wriggly worms, mud pies and the like. Debbie believed that this opened her eyes to how precious our planet is and inspired her to go on to study Environmental Biology.
Debbie has worked as a dinner lady, a special needs learning assistant, as a childminded and a volunteer for school gardening clubs. She is a very knowledgeable horticulturalist and now works as a professional gardener, with her own gardening business, gaining her qualifications through the Royal Horticultural Society at Easton College. Debbie’s says:
‘At home I grow as much of my own food as my modest plot will allow, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that we need to go further than this to maintain a balance in how much we consume of the planet’s resources. And we need to teach our children. Something that embodies that idea is Permaculture, and this is something that I think can be applied to every aspect of our lives alongside conventional food growing'
Chloe has a lifelong passion for sport and love of animals and, combined with her degree in law, has led her to peruse a career in the Sport Law industry. She is currently working as Legal Advisor with the British Horse Racing Authority and lives in London.
Chloe was born and raised in the Republic of Ireland in Ballyclough, County Cork and is a “proud Irish girl at heart’.
As a former elite athlete and with her legal training, experience and skills, Chloe hopes that she can help The Papillon Project grow and ensure that it meets its obligations as a Charitable Company. She says:
‘I’m honoured to accept the position as Secretary of The Papillon Project and fully support Matt Willer, leading this inspiring project. I first met Matt through his incredible wife, Natasha. Matt’s professional approach, strong work ethic, perseverance, and determination are illustrated by his achievements thus far. The success of the ‘The Allotment Project’ at Reepham High truly inspired me to get involved with The Papillon Project.'
George lives with his family in the beautiful Norfolk countryside where he spent much of his childhood watching the local wildlife, cycling and playing with friends in the nearby villages. After completing his earlier education at his local primary and secondary school, George went on to study History, Geography and Sociology A Levels at Reepham College, where he became well acquainted with Matt Willer, in his lessons and at the Reepham Allotment Project. George regularly volunteered during and outside of college hours in constructing the Allotment Project, along with helping students at the site and teaching them about the importance of permaculture, growing food organically and the protection of the environment. After two incredible years of working at Reepham, George was inspired to help make Matt’s allotment charity vision a reality, and now volunteers with The Papillon Project developing new and existing allotments at local secondary schools.
During this Gap Year, George plans to learn first-hand about the dynamics of wildlife conservation and the threats species and habitats face, by volunteering with a variety of local and national wildlife organisations such as the RSPB and The Norfolk Wildlife Trust. In addition, he plans to travel across the UK to different nature reserves to observe different conservation strategies in action. And if that wasn’t enough, he also hopes to do international volunteering in the Galapagos Islands in order to help preserve and experience the abundant yet, fragile biodiversity of this unique archipelago. After this, George will be taking up a placement at Kent University to Study a BSc in Wildlife Conservation with a Year in Professional Practice.
In his spare time, George tends to his extensive vegetable garden at home and grows organic produce for his family to use. He is also a passionate outdoorsman; he enjoys annual country sports and taking regular walks and bike rides near his home and outdoor swimming and sailing on the North Norfolk Coast. When not outside, George can often be found reading about natural history, listening to classical music or keeping updated with and discussing current affairs.
George says of his role and expectations:
‘The Papillon Project helps to encourage shared stewardship of our planet’s resources, fairer societies and the transfer of vital knowledge and skills; simply by creating long-term, ecologically sound allotments. It is so rewarding to play an active role working alongside students who have come together from a diverse range of social backgrounds, to produce something for their school that, due to the constraints of the Education System, is often impossible to contemplate.
The Papillon Project will generate both a series of self-sufficient allotments that become integral parts of School life, and in time form a network that can share resources efficiently to help create and improve other sites- just like a healthy forest sharing water and nutrients to survive.’
The great outdoors has long been a passion of Sara’s; she grew up on a farm and was lucky enough to have parents who encouraged her in this. Her back garden included a den where she used to sleep with her sister overnight and an outdoor fire pad where they often cooked breakfast and lunch together. During her teenage years, she became a Young Leader with her local Guide Company; this allowed her to share her love of the outdoors with other young people, taking them camping, playing ‘wide’ games and making the most of natural resources. Her involvement in Guiding continued for many years, whatever age group she worked with getting the girls outside and learning practical skills was always a priority! Sara has a strong belief in encouraging young people to recognise their potential, particularly those for whom academic success doesn’t come easily.
Sara’s interest in The Papillon Project was initially sparked through watching the development of the Reepham High School allotment, which combined her on-going love of the outdoors with encouraging young people to learn practical skills in an incredibly positive environment. Sara would be the first to admit that her knowledge of gardening is very limited but was delighted to take on the role of clerk with The Papillon Project so that she could help support a project she believed so strongly in.
Fuchsia studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and her professional background lies in marketing, communications and event management.
She first encountered The Papillon Project whilst working as Communications Officer for the RHS Campaign for School Gardening, and was blown away by the Project’s flagship allotment at Reepham High School.
On returning to Norfolk to work as a freelance writer, she got involved more directly, volunteering to sit on the Project’s Leadership team and Fundraising committee.
She spends a lot of her spare time growing vegetables on a patch of land in West Norfolk and is passionate about helping to connect everyone, young or old, with the great outdoors!
Portia originally trained as a Ballet dancer at The Royal Ballet School, and worked as a commercial dancer and model, before re-training as an actress at Drama Centre London.