Northamptonshire charity acquires an allotment to boost skills and mental health
Written by Martin Steers on September 4, 2020
Any gardener will tell you that spending time outside in the fresh air, working with the soil and getting closer to nature is wonderful for wellbeing. This is part of the thinking behind C2C Grows, a new venture by Northamptonshire charity C2C Social Action, who have begun work to transform an overgrown allotment in Northampton into a thriving, productive plot.
C2C creates a safer Northamptonshire by inspiring and motivating anyone at any stage of the criminal justice system to take personal responsibility for their behaviour. Their service users are some of the most vulnerable people in society – with multiple complex needs and experiencing social isolation. For some, their journey to rehabilitation starts with discovering their self-esteem. By opening up the allotment to the men and women they work with, C2C hopes to help more service users find a sense of purpose.
Green shoots of rehabilitation
C2C works with a diverse group of people – each with a unique set of needs – so extending the range of activities available offers more ways for service users to spend their time and energy productively. Sowing seeds, nurturing the plants and harvesting the end produce is incredibly rewarding. Creating something, with your own hands, has proven benefits for mental health, and over time the service users’ wellbeing will blossom along with the plants. Gardening is also fantastic exercise and a way to combat social isolation.
Learning something new is also great for mental health, and, as in any garden, there will always be something to do on the allotment and many skills to learn. In time, C2C expects that unearthing an interest in horticulture will lead some of the service users to take a relevant course, for example at Moulton College, and access potential employment opportunities. On the allotment, the service users will work with and learn from C2C’s Outdoor Learning Officer, and a team of knowledgeable and experienced volunteers.
Work has already started to clear the plot of overgrown bushes before preparing beds ready for planting crops. Starting with a few winter vegetables, the crops will require no specialist knowledge, increasing the chance of a successful harvest, which the service users can then take home to their families.
Socially distanced appointments
The allotment offers a further benefit by being an additional venue where the service users can meet their support workers or C2C’s partner agencies as they work on addressing their barriers to change. C2C is reopening the Northampton Women’s Centre in mid-September but social distancing means that only six people (service users plus staff and volunteers) can be in the building at any one time) – fewer than before COVID-19. Working alongside in the garden may help someone to open up more easily than if they were sitting face to face.
Keeping people and communities safe
C2C is working with statutory organisations including the probation service and Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT) to put the right guidelines in place to safeguard service users, staff and volunteers, and safely build links to the community.
Appeal for volunteers and Job vacancy
C2C would love to hear from anyone who would like to volunteer with the project or is interested in the job vacancy – contact [email protected]