Time well spent

The Grow Project works significantly to improve peoples mental-health and wellbeing by connecting them with nature in a highly supportive environment.
The Grow Project works significantly to improve peoples mental-health and wellbeing by connecting them with nature in a highly supportive environment.

A new report from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations reports that feeling connected lies at the core of the volunteer experience.

Among the different volunteering brings is a sense of connection and many also say their volunteering has helped them feel less isolated, especially younger volunteers.

Since we launched the Rampion Fund in 2017, the fund has given grants to 72 organisations supported by more than 13,600 volunteers. One of those is The Grow Project.

The Grow Project works with adults with mental health issues in Brighton & Hove area. Their work significantly improves people’s mental-health and wellbeing by connecting them with nature in a highly supportive environment. The group received a £5,000 grant to run an eight-week course for a group of 13 people with a range of mental health issues.

“Every Thursday for eight weeks, we facilitated a safe and supportive space out at Saddlescombe Farm and other locations in the beautiful South Downs countryside where people were able to experience the healing properties of being out in nature,” says director Jo Wren. “With a programme of activities that ranged from walks, wild art, shepherding with the local tenant farmer, conservation tasks, green woodworking, outdoor baking in a clay oven, mindfulness and meditation exercises, beachcombing and visits to other outdoor projects, people were encouraged to discover activities which they enjoyed and which would motivate them in the future to use nature as a tool to manage their own wellbeing.”

A recent evaluation of another Grow Project by the University of Brighton showed that 100% of participants reported an improvement in mental health and 92% in physical health, as a result of their participation. The report also showed less use of statutory NHS services, demonstrating improved mental health and resilience.

Valerie (not her real name) was one beneficiary. A recently retired 67-year-old woman, she moved to Brighton from London recently. Valerie has struggled to make friends and find her community in Brighton and applied to join Grow after a period of depression. “I have some mobility problems and my balance is affected by hypermobility. I have recently been diagnosed with a lung condition, which has caused me a lot of stress and, over the past two years, I have had several traumas and bereavements. I have been finding it difficult to fully engage with things I previously enjoyed. So much has happened in a relatively short time that is difficult to process it all,” says Val. “ My wellbeing was transformed by the end of each Grow day. I honestly loved the whole experience – it provided an anchor, one day a week, and its effects have helped carry me on positively through the week. Since being involved with Grow, I have been volunteering at community allotment in Brighton and also hope to join another as a volunteer.”

The next deadline for applications to the Rampion Fund is Friday March 29. More info www.sussexgiving.org.uk/apply