Since 2017, Sunderland Home Grown has been providing opportunities for adults with mental health issues and learning disabilities to learn about horticulture in a safe, friendly and relaxed working environment.
The project has been an enormous success within the community. Employability is firmly bedded into the training service users receive and one has since become a member of staff for the project itself. The individuals who have taken part have thrived on the project, enjoying a greater quality of life and improved mental and physical wellbeing. It means the world to the staff to see service users receiving the benefits of this project that they’d always envisioned.
“It’s not just the plants that bloom – the people bloom too,” said Gary Hillery, Manager and Director of Sunderland Home Grown.
What the grant has helped accomplish
Securing Power to Change funding allowed Sunderland Home Grown to purchase the existing structures on the nursery grounds. Over the last five years, these have become the main teaching and growing areas. They’ve allowed the team to establish fantastic new services onsite, from landscaping projects, fruit and vegetable growing, and even commercial horticulture.
The staff now totals eight members, and the number of service users has increased to around 60 every week.
A project that’s needed more than ever post-Covid
The increase in social isolation and mental health issues during the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a big rise in the number of people who are interested in joining the project. A more positive outcome of the pandemic was that plant buying sales shot up during a stay-at-home summer where people rediscovered the joy of gardening and wanted to get their gardens blooming.
Due to the team’s strong focus on protecting the community’s wellbeing, they were considered keyworkers, so the project was able to stay open during lockdown. With all of the proper safety measures in place, more people came through the gates for horticultural therapy than ever before.
Future plans for the project
Sunderland Home Grown hopes to expand into another site on Thompson Park, which will be used for sales, retail and customer service training. This will open up more space on the original site for growing and gardening therapy, and increase the employability of service users being trained in retail as well as horticulture.