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Testimonials and Reflections

Discover what people think about the impact of our charitable work in Norfolk secondary schools and sixth-form colleges

Please read the thoughts and feelings of...

  • Young people

  • Teachers

  • Parents

  • Members of the local community

  • Celebrated figures and organisations

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Katie Duthie, Year 11, Litcham School

"I’ve always loved being outdoors but, it wasn’t until The Papillon Project came to my school that I really got into gardening. I saw how they transformed a rundown, old corner of the school into what would be a thriving allotment. The Papillon Project also emphasises how beneficial gardening and spending time outdoors can be for our mental health, especially for young people, which is obviously very important."

Student (aged 15), Thorpe St Andrew School

"Before, the land was useless and a burden on the school. This project really helped to utilise the school’s land and benefit the students, giving them life skills which may help them in the future. The volunteers with The Papillon Project were very passionate, respectful and friendly. They ensured every student had a task and was not left out. I enjoyed working with other students to plant crops and build wooden compost containers. I learnt how to plant crops such as potatoes."

Alice Metcalfe and Jess Vertigan (Year 13 students), Sprowston Community Academy

Both were asked: 'Do you feel that The Papillon Project's volunteers helped to improve your school allotment?'


"Definitely 100% yes! Reasons include:

  • They share their knowledge and expertise with students and teachers

  • They lead and organise students so that we can make the most of their time spent at the allotment. They're good at answering the teachers' and students' questions.

  • They are another very reliable pair of hands (many hands make light work!). Also, they are able to spend longer amounts of time at the allotment at once, whereas students can usually only spare half an hour or so. This is incredibly helpful for bigger structural projects eg. installing new polyethene sheet onto polytunnel.

  • They can source materials for the allotment that teachers and students don’t have access to.

  • The volunteers are good at brainstorming ideas and bouncing them around with teachers and students.

  • They take on the figure of ‘supervising adult’.

  • They can organise and get hold of diggers and tree surgeons etc, which students may find harder to do.

  • The volunteers can do boring, adulty things like discussing health and safety with the headteacher.

  • They are smiley people, which is great in general and necessary on school allotments."


"Without the knowledge and support of the volunteers, our school allotment would most likely look as it did prior to its transformation. They provided experience and guidance whilst allowing us as students to have free reign over what we wanted the space to be like, creating a productive and welcoming atmosphere where we could all learn. They inspired the change and progression in the allotment, which I think was very necessary for our school, and will be influential in the future."

Kamiliya, Year 8, Hethersett Academy

"The Papillon Project has helped majorly with the appearance and the swiftness of getting things done. They have inspired us to do more than we were doing and to work together as a team. They have also helped us with practical things like our step-by-step composter that lets us dispose of our leftover twigs leaves and veggies."

Poppy Griffin, Year 13, Reepham College

"The community of volunteers and the friends you make…young, old, students, teachers, people from the community; it’s a unique place to make friendships of all ages that will last a lifetime."

Lilly Dollman, Year 13 and Allotment Project Leader, Reepham College

"It’s such a release of stress from schools and exams, and a way to calm down and have a good start to the day. It’s about learning to make stuff that you can’t learn in a lesson, and I think being outdoors at The Allotment Project is the best way to do just that. The main objective of The Allotment Project is to care for nature and work together to look after the planet we live in. For year 7’s it’s so welcoming…and school back then can be so overwhelming, so to be in a happy area is so nice. It would have been really helpful if I came down to the allotment in Year 7. It is definitely the bubbliest environment I know!"

Holly Stonestreet-Whitman, volunteer since Year 8, speaking as a Year 10 student (Reepham High School)

“I started to get involved because I had nothing else to do in a lunchtime and wanted to get away from work, work, work for a while. Also, it sounded really fun and is such a great thing to be involved with. I keep coming because once you get started you really enjoy it and can’t leave work unfinished and seeds unplanted!” 

Tyler Birch, Year 10 student (Reepham High School)

“I go to the allotment because I have nothing else to do at lunch and the allotment is just the place for me to get involved with a big part of the school, contributing to the school. We have quite a few very hard-working people at the allotment and I am pleased to say that we have got a nice and peaceful area down there now.” 


Mr John Brierley, Head of Sixth Form at Sprowston Community Academy (2020)

"We were lacking something at the sixth form, so I said to the students let’s get involved in this as a community project and now we are building it back up. It’s easy to see the change, and the relationship you can have with young people outside the classroom - it’s a really nice working environment. The students get to see the reward for their hard work. You can see that they have enjoyed the day and they can see something they have physically done. It provides real escapism for the students and the chance to try something different that they haven’t done before. The way students talk, engage and are passionate about their allotment is truly amazing and students across Norfolk really need to have that experience instead of just exams; the happier students will perform better overall. The level of enthusiasm for the project was clear but we never expected to get such support and a driving force of nature in Matt Willer and his team.  We thought we might just get the allotment cleared this year ready to go again in Spring 2021. The pictures and evidence show so much more progress that we never thought would be possible."

Mr Tim Gibbs, Headteacher at Reepham High School & College (2020)

"The more time I spend in schools, the more I think it’s important to connect with nature and be in the outdoor environment. I know some children who are really suited to the allotment and I know if that wasn’t there for them, then they wouldn’t be the people they are today. That’s the thing they love, are best at and look forward to. They have developed the social skills and confidence with being part of that team at the allotment, otherwise, they wouldn’t have that opportunity or social development. In terms of building self-esteem, a sense of worth and value, then this fills in the gaps that the school can’t offer. It is a unique thing, I have never seen anything like it, and it truly is totally inclusive; there is not a student who can’t find a place down at the allotment. It links the school with the community in a fantastic way. Reepham's Allotment Project is one of the most educationally complete pieces of work I have ever seen in schools."

Mr Stewart Anderson, Science teacher and Allotment Lead at Dereham Neatherd High School (2020)

"Neatherd pupils have engaged with Matt and the team from day one of their involvement. Pupils show up on a Wednesday session specifically because they know Matt is coming. When Matt isn’t there, they ask 'where he is?' and 'when he is coming back?'. Our team now has 25 core members which is easily the biggest group of pupils we have had in the four years I have been running the garden, a testament to Matt and his team's hard work. Matt and the team have worked perfectly alongside our members of staff and volunteers. The biggest aspect of why the Papillion Project has been so successful is consistency. We can trust and rely that they are going to show up and complete a project, regardless of the weather. That takes months and months of showing up and engaging to create that level of trust. Meeting with the Headteacher is another example of going above and beyond to engage with school and staff. My sitting down and explaining Matt's vision completely sold his work ethic to our Headteacher, which really helps. It gives us a lot more freedom and leeway which we might not have received before. Most members of staff watched Matt's assembly and have seen him around the school which creates a permanent presence that the garden is an important learning area for our pupils."

Miss Irma Rekic, Geography teacher at Thorpe St Andrew School & Sixth Form (2020)

"The Papillon Project came once a week from January 2020 onwards with two to three volunteers. They did a huge, huge amount which I don’t really think people [in the school] were really aware of at the time. There has been such a transformation! From mid-February onwards we started to get the students involved and that was just amazing to see them all there, and for them to see the project grow too. There are so many positive ripples [for our school] which I think we cannot even fathom at this point. I would really encourage you to support The Papillon Project in any way because the passion is there, the drive is there, the authenticity is there. Their vision is sustainable because they connect other schools from other [school allotment] sites and share information between them. I just want to say thank you so, so much to Matt Willer and his team at The Papillon Project. I think this is one of the most valuable things that I have ever done as a teacher. For me, it just speaks a huge amount about how it [Thorpe’s Allotment Project] can benefit children much, much more than we can ever fathom or realise. Obviously exams are important, but these are skills that they will keep with them and give them so much confidence and allow these young people to become successful."

Mr Paul Collin, Headteacher of City Academy Norwich (2020)

"We have been working with the Papillon project at City Academy Norwich – secondary comprehensive now since the start of Jan 2020. As we move into what has been a strange time for the whole world with the pandemic we are all facing we are also moving towards our fifth month of the project. The transformation from empty space to growing allotment plot is amazing. This work has not only been achieved through the excellent expertise and experience offered to the school and staff by the Papillon team and extended volunteers but also the dedication, commitment and momentum that the project brings with it. It has captured the hearts and minds of our students and staff and open up an new way of working within the school. Enhancing the wellbeing of our students and staff and unlocking the opportunity for young people to learn and discover outdoors in new ways.  The Papillon project charity is truly an inspirational organisation, dedicated to making a difference to the lives of young people and the world in which we live". 

Mrs Caroline Wade, Key Stage 4 Pastoral Manger at Old Buckenham High School (2021)

"Matt has inspired, educated and been there advising and supporting. His enthusiasm has rubbed off on the young people. An experience they will never forget."

Mr Isaac Kennedy, Food Technology Instructor at Acle Academy (2021

"We've really enjoyed working with the Papillion Project, it's been a wholly positive experience and a genuine learning journey. Thank you for giving us, and our students, this opportunity to work together outside in the sun!"

Mrs Mel Duffin, Teaching Assistant at Ormiston Victory Academy (2021)

"Matt and his endless energy and enthusiasm he has for the project. For introducing us to great volunteers we are lucky to have. The patience they all have shown towards are students and myself and my colleagues."

Mrs Rachel Thornberry, Principal of Specialist Provision at Unity Educational Trust (2021)

"The bases worked. We have a vibrant and well used allotment areas and this has encouraged other bases to develop allotment areas of their own. We have linked the work by the pupils on the allotments to our UET pledges and rewards so pupil can achieve recognition for their involvement further adding value to growing own fruit and vegetables. We are starting to look at how we can develop links with the community."

"Matt is the ideal character to work with our cohort of pupil that exhibit some behaviours that really challenging."

Alex Wynn, SEND Manger at Hewett Academy (2022)

"Our students have been so proud of the food they have grown, and have been lucky enough to then share this enthusiasm and passion with the school cook who has made their food into something. They have then been able to share this with friends at lunch time and be truly proud of the fact that they had grown the food they were now sharing with others. The allotment experience allowed students to have a positive experience in school, and to take part in an activity that made them feel excellent about themselves and each other. As a member of staff, the sessions with Matt always provided us with so much experience to be able to praise our students and catch them getting things right, which has helped to build trusting relationships."

Elaine Wells, Head of Technology at Downham Market Academy (2022)

"The Green Society has blossomed this year with your support. Students have seen the allotment improve and wanted to get involved but also the assembly inspired a lot of students to get involved too. The students like having a safe, quiet space to go to as well as the responsibility of working in the garden which has definitely improved the students well being. Students like H who struggle in school found it incredibly rewarding to come and help plant trees and find something they could excel at."

Mark Eastwood, Head of School at Downham Market Academy (2022)

"Matt had been very open about what he and his team would be able to help us with this year in terms of resources, time, expertise and community engagement. The Green Society have had an absolutely blast this year and it is so lovely to see them out there every week tending to their growing crop and then proudly delivering to people around the school."

Elanor Westbury, Vice Principal at King's Lynn Academy (2022)

"Each week the students look forward to working with the team and gradually their enthusiasm has grown for working on the project independently. The highlight has been the growing, picking and cooking of the vegetables by the students, photos were shared with the whole staff team at the academy and all were impressed by what they saw. Students are choosing to spend time outside creating rather than inside on devices, the pinnacle was when a team of Ofsted inspectors observed the students engaged with the project, they commented on the wellbeing, teamwork and communication aspects of the activities they saw and were very impressed."

Jonathan Prochera, Geography Teacher and Eco-lead at Broadland High Ormiston Academy (2022)

 "I was amazed at the help given despite being told it would only be occasional and probably just advice.  The pupils are very enthused and I am sure have learnt lots. I get regular emails from them asking me when the next sessions are.  I certainly have become more knowledgeable and interested too! It has helped the confidence of several pupils. What is good is that many other students who maybe didn't find the idea of interest at the start are now asking to join."


Alison O’Malley, parent of two children at Reepham High School & College

“I cannot express to you how impressed I am with your project at the allotment. I follow you on Twitter and am amazed by the amount of work being done and the progress you make with extending and improving the allotment and with the success of the produce you have. I absolutely love the fact that the school canteen uses much of what you produce and that we can also buy it at the Reepham market. I think it is fantastic just how many students you get involved and how the allotment can be a safe sanctuary for those who find the playground overwhelming. The whole project is providing the school with so many benefits, I wouldn’t know where to start listing them! It is one of those things that has no downside to it either. You are doing a fantastic job and should be recognised by other schools as a wonderful example to follow!”


“I help when I can at the allotment because, as a family, we encourage a love of and curiosity in the environment, and to have this wonderfully practical resource at our school is so important. I have been so impressed with the welcome of the students and staff, that it has been a highlight of my year.”


Judith Smith, community volunteer for Reepham High School & College's 'Allotment Project':

“I’m so lucky to have the allotment on my doorstep. Being able to watch, and in a very small way contribute to, such an inspirational and constantly evolving project is great. I love walking over every day to feed the chooks, especially early in the morning when I often see a barn owl and a hare. The skills the students are learning are so important, will never be forgotten and, in my opinion, are life-enhancing.”

Tim Moor, Norfolk arable farmer

"It's brilliant what The Papillon Project is doing. The biggest eye-opener for me was at the project's open evening, when a young boy said that he never realised that chips came from potatoes and that they grew in the ground. I was gobsmacked as it made me realise what an important job The Papillon Project is doing. I really enjoy them [young people] and really enjoy an interest in it. Everybody says kids only want to look at their computers and play computer games, but some of the children at the allotments are really into it and they absolutely love it!."


David Holmgren – Co-Originator of Permaculture

"I want to congratulate The Papillon Project for their school allotment programme they have been getting off the ground. School allotments are one of the strategies that have emerged from the application of permaculture ethics and design principles over the last forty years. Certainly, one of the strategies used for empowering young people and connecting them to their sources of sustenance and building a positive sense of the future. So, keep doing the good work!"

Frances Tophill - BBC Gardeners' World Presenter 

Reflecting on how school allotments can improve mental health while visiting 'The Allotment Project' at Reepham High School & College:

"There is such a lot of pressure on young people’s shoulders and they feel this weight of their whole future and to just come away from that and get some perspective and see there is more is so important. That perspective and that escapism, from school life, is really important, but also there is an innate instinct to nurture in people. I found through my own experiences and working with lots of schools that that nurturing is so ingrained when it comes to plants. You plant a seed and you watch it grow, but with that comes a whole other element with nurturing other people, and that’s the really key thing because people find support in a place like this [Reepham’s Allotment Project], and a love for each other in a place like this, and that nurturing of each other and ourselves is what’s really important."

RHS Campaign for School Gardening judges on Matt Willer*

*Matt (The Papillon Project's Leader & Founder) was awarded the prestigious national title of 'RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year 2018'.

Judges said:

“Wow! What can I say? Amazing! A truly selfless guy who is both inspirational and awe-inspiring."

"Watching Matt’s video and seeing the beautiful space he has built with his students is such an inspiring and energising experience. He makes me want to set up a project like it myself. His message about how we can turn the world into a better place by engaging with nature is a lesson to us all. It’s stirring stuff.”

Norwich & Norfolk Eco Awards judges on Matt Willer*

*Matt (Papillon Project Leader and Founder) won the title of Norfolk & Norwich 'Eco Hero' award, with over 3000 public votes, in 2019.

Judges said:

“Matt has inspiring commitment and energy to both sustainability and to teaching. We were really inspired by the humility he brings to the project – the best sustainability leaders are those who give others space to innovate and do things themselves.”