Volunteering outdoors in the garden could boost your mental health and keep you fit and healthy, and the good news is that garden therapy charity Thrive is looking for more people to come and help at all three of its regional centres in Reading, London and Birmingham.
Last year, the University of Essex and The Wildlife Trusts published a report (Volunteering: A Natural Health Service) on how volunteering in a nature-rich environment impacted positively on people’s health and wellbeing.
The findings were particularly important for people who live with mental health conditions as research showed that nature volunteering had the most significant impact on those with low levels of mental wellbeing at the start of the project.
But there are other benefits too, for everyone, such as increased feelings of positivity and higher levels of physical activity. It’s something the Government has taken on board with the launch of its 25-year, multi-million pound environment strategy.
Part of the money being provided by the Government will go towards schools to improve their grounds with green initiatives which could include creating new gardens and growing vegetables. There are also plans nationally to create thousands more hectares of habitat for wildlife and plant 11 million more trees.
Alyson Chorley, for Thrive, said: “With the natural environment making headlines for good reasons we hope that people will think about getting out and about more, and even seek out nature volunteering opportunities which is a great way to keep fit and healthy, make new friends, learn new skills and generally feel good about themselves.”
Tina, who has been volunteering with Thrive for more than four years, commented: “I found Thrive through a national volunteering website as after I retired I wanted to keep myself busy and do something for other people. I enjoy gardening and had been on some RHS courses but the volunteering position was in the office and I was happy with that because I had those skills from being a PA. But as soon as I got chatting with the lady at Thrive who interviews volunteers she suggested volunteering in the garden – and I am so glad she did!
“It was a bit daunting at first, knowing what to say to some of the client gardeners, many of whom have learning difficulties, are quite vulnerable or have other health issues, but you soon learn how to get the best of out them and gain their trust.
“I was then surprised at how much I started getting out of coming to Thrive. I began to really look forward to my day at Thrive every week and it is such a great feeling being able to do something that I want to do, rather than have to do. The horticultural therapists plan everything that goes on during the day, so as a volunteer I get to talk to and listen to the client gardeners whilst gardening and helping them achieve something they might not have thought possible. That feeling of helping someone is priceless, and doing it in the garden is wonderful!
“I just love volunteering and get so much out of it, I can’t quite believe I’ve been here four years!”
Garden volunteers at all Thrive centres work alongside client gardeners, other volunteers and a horticultural therapist doing tasks such as watering, digging, hoeing, mowing, pruning, watching out for the Health and Safety of those you are working with and helping clear and put away tools.
Volunteers don’t have to be garden experts to volunteer, but some understanding of basic gardening skills would be welcome, as would any experience of working with people who have a disability or suffers ill health.
Get in touch via www.thrive.org.uk or phone 0118 988 5688 to find out more.