Tuesday, November 20, 2012
A green-fingered charity is helping to boost the self-esteem and skills of adults with learning difficulties thanks to the power of nature.
The Garden Science Trust, based in the organic garden at the EcoTech Centre, Swaffham, was set up in 2000 and also helps the unemployed by giving them the chance to grow fruit, vegetables and native flowers.
It currently helps 15 people across four different groups, including adults who live in supported accommodation from Swaffham, Downham Market and King’s Lynn, and people who use the Downham Market Community Service Volunteers charity.
Pat Welsh, programme manager, said: “It was set up so it would help people with learning difficulties get some experience of learning about science by collecting data and experimentation, which is not an area usually offered to people with learning difficulties. We also work with people who have barriers to education and employment.
“A lot of the time the people who come to us have low self-esteem and confidence. It is definitely a popular social activity.”
The trust is part of the Escape community allotment project in Swaffham and mental health charity MIND and relies heavily on grants.
A recent financial boost has allowed them to buy a weather station from Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham, which will allow the service users to measure rainfall and temperatures and analyse the information.
People aged between 18 and 69 benefit from the trust, which has three part-time paid staff and volunteers.
“Our root aim is to widen their skills base, keep them fit and promote healthy eating. We cover a little bit of everything. There are so many people out there who could benefit from a bit of gardening,” Ms Welsh added.
Produce including leeks, broccoli, cabbage, carrots and strawberries is grown in the organic garden.
Ms Welsh said people who attend the sessions can take home the fruit and vegetables and are encouraged to use their new gardening skills at home.
Tom Gardener, 42, from Necton, a gardening support worker for the charity, said: “I think it is fabulous how this place has come on. The service users love it.”
Christian Reid, 38, from King’s Lynn, has attended the outdoor sessions for more than a year.
“I like digging and planting bulbs. I have learned how to follow instructions and about teamwork,” he added.
People who are supported by the trust have a range of learning difficulties.
Sessions take place in the afternoon on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
For more information, visit www.gardensciencetrust.co.uk, ring 01760 726746 or email firstname.lastname@example.org