Letchworth mental health charity uses grant to turn beneficiaries into volunteers

PUBLISHED: 11:59 06 October 2017 | UPDATED: 11:59 06 October 2017

The King's Fund report Gardens and Health concluded that gardening brings important benefits for wellbeing. Picture: Jane Delany

The King's Fund report Gardens and Health concluded that gardening brings important benefits for wellbeing. Picture: Jane Delany

Archant

The Letchworth Heritage Foundation has awarded a grant to a charity gardening project that aims to transform lives of adults with mental health problems.

Growing People volunteer Jennifer Liberty. Picture: Jane DelanyGrowing People volunteer Jennifer Liberty. Picture: Jane Delany

Growing People – which is also based in Letchworth – brings the benefits of gardening to vulnerable adults across North Hertfordshire. Its programme is delivered at the Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living and sessions at The Lister Hospital in Stevenage, as well as a dementia care home.

Earlier this year the charity was awarded £3,250 by the Heritage Foundation to develop its volunteer programme.

The grant has helped form a training programme for those who want to make the change from benefitting from the therapy to becoming a volunteer.

Alison Shersby, project manager for Growing People said: “We’re not limited to a three-month placement. A natural progression for some is moving onto being a volunteer within our scheme and helping others join the programme.

Su Harvey, Horticultural Therapist at Growing People. Picture: Jane DelanySu Harvey, Horticultural Therapist at Growing People. Picture: Jane Delany

“There are those whose needs fall between full social and therapeutic horticulture sessions and being able to meet the responsibilities and demands of becoming full volunteers.

“They may be people who have attended therapy sessions and are on the road to recovery but do not yet have the confidence or skills to move on or work independently, or they may have had a referral from a local mental health team for a volunteering placement.”

Each session is run by horticultural therapists, along with two or three trained volunteers.

They also have individual flower beds for people to plant as they wish.

Alison continued: “We’re very much looking at the lived experience of mental illness and our therapy is based on the individual needs of each gardener, to help them achieve their own goals.

“Some of our gardeners might be working with anxiety issues or need to escape from isolation. This gives them the opportunity to spend time with people.

“For others simply committing to be here and turning up each day is an act of courage.”

Anyone who is interested in joining the Growing People scheme to receive therapy through gardening, or to volunteer should see www.growing-people.org.ukor call 07794 347283.

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