How we’re supporting the mental health of volunteers through gardening project

How we’re supporting the mental health of volunteers through gardening project Image

The BBC Morning Live show recently visited our allotment on Somerby Road in Scunthorpe to learn more about our Growing and Learning project.

The project which started in 2016, supports unemployed volunteers to not only gain valuable skills to add to their CV and help them become work ready, but it also aims to improve their mental and physical health. Over 150 volunteers have worked on the project since it has begun.

Working either one to one or in a group setting, volunteers will learn a range of different growing and gardening skills. They will work with our Growing & Learning Manager, John Cavill, on how to grow a variety of vegetables, learn about environmental issues and other key aspects needed to secure employment, such as team working and confidence building.

Not only is this great for improving physical health, but it supports the mental health of the volunteers too.

John Cavill, Growing & Learning Manager, said: “Being outside in the fresh air and having a project to focus on is great for boosting the mental health of those I work with. The work we do really helps to improve their confidence and self-esteem by seeing a project from start to finish.

“It’s great to have something positive for our volunteers to focus on and add into their routine, I like to call what we do ‘good mood gardening’ as we find volunteers always leave the allotment feeling positive.

“We’ve seen many of our volunteers forming friendships as a result of this project, and see each other outside of the allotment. This again is another example of how brilliant it is for mental health and wellbeing.”

Maurice Cowan from Scunthorpe has been volunteering with us on the allotments for just over three years. He initially started volunteering because he retired from his full time job at the steelworks, but realised he needed a new focus in his life.

He visited our Employment Support team to see what options there were for him following his retirement. The team arranged for him to start volunteering with John and he is still a regular volunteer three days a week.

Maurice will say himself how this project really helped him; “I have learnt so much during the time on the allotment, I’ve met lots of interesting people, made loads of new friends and it’s great to be outdoors and involved in such a worthy project.

“This has really helped with my mental and physical health by keeping active and having something positive in my weekly routine. When I retired, I felt like I still needed a purpose and something to put my energy into, so this has been brilliant.” 

“This has really helped with my mental and physical health by keeping active. Wife said he is so much happier since volunteering. Feels he has a purpose. No two days are the same. Gets involved in everything – painting, allotments, planters, handiwork – happy to just get stuck in 

Over 150 people have been supported by this project since it started in 2016, giving local people that extra support and guidance to prepare for the world of work.