Help Your Britain - Gardening Leave

  • Continuing with our Help Your Britain campaign today marks the fourth user-nominated charity to be showcased on Bing. We’ll be showcasing the work of a small UK charity on the last Friday of each month enabling the cause to tell its own story.

    There are more than 187,000 registered charities across Great Britain with a story to be told, many of whom will never be heard due to the lack of resources at their disposal. We’re shining the spotlight on these unsung British heroes as part of a long-term campaign, enabling you, the British public, to nominate the charities you would like to see featured on the homepage on the final Friday of each month via www.bing.com/HelpYourBritain.

    Today is the turn of …

    Run entirely on voluntary donations, Gardening Leave provides horticultural therapy in a safe, walled environment for war veterans who have trouble adjusting to civilian life. Through the growing and nurturing of plants under Gardening Leave’s trained volunteers, veterans’ mental and physical wellbeing improves and they become better able at avoiding and recovering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the NHS, PTSD currently affects up to 30 per cent of people who experience a distressing event in their lifetime, with symptoms often being severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person’s day-to-day life.

    A DAY IN THE LIFE OF PAMELA SMITH, HORTICULTURAL THERAPIST AT GARDENING LEAVE AUCHINCRUIVE, AYRSHIRE.

    Every day at Gardening Leave starts with ‘a brew’!

    The veterans who come to Gardening Leave for Horticultural Therapy arrive by half past nine, mostly by car, some collected by the Gardening Leave vehicle generously donated by ABF, The Soldiers’ Charity and other benefactors – getting to Gardening Leave is all part of the therapy…

    Veterans can either do a half day session of Horticultural Therapy at Gardening Leave or all day. Most choose to stay all day.

    The first brew of the day gives me a chance to assess how they are physically, emotionally and cognitively. Some may have had a bad night’s sleep and be sleep deprived; some may be anxious and overwrought; some may be very depressed. Horticultural Therapy can help to improve all three presentations and more, but I need to make sure I suggest appropriate tasks for each individual veteran – they are far more important than the gardening itself!

    Once the veterans and the morning’s volunteer have all arrived and I have introduced everyone, I divvy up the jobs and we set to work. Time then flies and it’s time for the first break of the day. It’s really important that we all stop at the same time; some veterans aren’t as fit as others, and some get so involved in the task they are doing that they keep going until they drop – not very therapeutic!

    Towards lunchtime we begin clearing up, putting away tools, watering any seeds sown and labelling pots. For veterans, it’s better to complete a small task than to leave a bigger one half done. It’s much more rewarding for them, especially if their self-esteem is low.

    At lunch, we all take it in turns to make the bacon rolls. This is good for social interaction and memory (who takes sugar in their coffee?), which is a huge part of being at Gardening Leave.

    After lunch, it’s time for more gardening, DIY or fishing. This is also a great time for new veterans (who are only doing a half day session) to join in.

    Everyone goes home at half past three and I sit down (usually for the first time since the first brew!) to write up the daily evaluations of all who attended Gardening Leave that day and to plan tomorrow – here on the west coast of Scotland we assume it will be raining every day and are glad when it isn’t!

    If you would like to see your charity of choice take over the Bing homepage, you can nominate them here:

    www.bing.com/HelpYourBritain Don’t forget to get involved with the conversation on Facebook and Twitter#HelpYourBritain

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