On Thursday 24th of August we were blessed with a beautiful sunny day for our community well-being day at Martineau Gardens. The gorgeous surroundings of the garden provided a perfect backdrop to the activities and therapies offered to people, as well as the opportunities to socialise and have fun. Kushinga Garden and The Real Junk Food Project provided a wide range of delicious dishes for people.
Therapies and activities included african drumming, art making, mindfulness in nature walks, gentle massage, as well as kids activities. Aside from the direct well-being promotion aspect of the event, the focus was also to provide a space and opportunity for migrants and refugees to connect with opportunities, resources and other people in Birmingham.
We had around 70 people turn up for the event. around 60 to 70% of them were asylum seekers and refugees. Some of these included newly arrived refugees currently resident at nearby hostels. We had information stalls of different organisations supporting refugees and asylum seekers in a range of ways. Groups included Baobab, Entraid, RSVP, Kushinga Community Garden, and Birch.
We are very greatful for the efforts and support given by Martineau Gardens staff and volunteers. The event offered a chance for people to know about this great space, and all it has to offer. Other support that was of great value was that of Kushinga Garden volunteers who – aside from providing food, also helped set up and clear up, and offered translating of different languages for many visitors. Thank you also to all other volunteers helping out on the day.
Mother Gardens Gaining Ground project are inviting refugee and asylum seeker groups, as well as Birmingham residents to take part in a day of well-being activities, including art, african drumming and nature walks, in the beautiful Martineau Gardens.
Gaining Ground is a sub project of Mother Gardens, aimed at connecting new communities with green projects, mother garden sites, and the wider community. Gaining Ground refers to the mental health term ‘grounding’, denoting the process of grounding oneself in the present as a way to manage stresses related to the past or future. This year we have been connecting new communities with projects and groups all over the city.
This year we received a Big Lottery Awards for All grant to expand the Mother Gardens (MG) project. This will entail signing-up new food projects to become MGs, re-connecting with existing MGs, facilitating more sharing opportunities between projects, developing the overall MG model, and expanding the network. We also aim to engage with gardeners who may want to sign up their private gardens and allotment plots as MGs.
We will be developing an online map of Birmingham, where people can identify MGs across different localities in the city. This will serve to explore areas that are in greater need for the project to target, and connect them with other groups and gardeners. People will also be able to see what is going on in or near their own community.
New areas where projects are signing up as MGs include: Quinton, Bordesley Green, Oldbury, Winson Green, Summerfield and Kingshurst.
We have also received a Communities Together grant from the Heart of England Community Foundation to work with migrant and refugees groups, by connecting them with a range of MGs and gardening groups across the city. This initiative – titled ‘Gaining Ground’ – is a sub-project of MG, and started at the beginning of the year with the aim to create more connection between new communities and local resident communities. It is about creating mutual gains for both host and visiting projects.
Activities have included: taking people to community gardening sites in the areas that they live, enabling visiting groups to share their own skills and plants, getting people to volunteer at Food Forest Brum sites including orchard maintenance activites, establishing new mother gardens, and getting people to share and talk about edible plants native to their home country with local people.
We have worked closely with groups such as Kushinga Community Garden and Freedom from Torture, where members have become involved in the project as a way to be more rooted in local communities. People have also had the opportunity to learn new skills such as fruit tree grafting and pruning, while carrying this out for the benefit of the local community.
The name Gaining Ground refers to ‘grounding’, a mental health term for being able to be present and not caught up in stresses, anxiety and traumas; the project aims to help people settle into communities by being involved with them and the environment.
At this new stage of the Mother Gardens project we are expanding our capacity to work with a wider range of groups, while increasing the capacity of more people to be able to make a difference in the community and themselves.
Newly created mother bed at Centre of the Earth planted by clients of Freedom from Torture. Containing herbs, fruit bushes and perennial vegetables.
On Thursday 8th of June , Philippa, two volunteers, and two residents made the 13 hanging baskets to decorate the St Eugenes atrium. It is a stunning place, like an oasis in the heart of Digbeth. Everyone enjoyed the morning and some residents are determined to attend the Spring to Life Allotment on a Thursday morning in future. Gardening for well-being definitely raises the spirits and improves social interations. We’ll return in a couple of months to see how colourful the atrium has become”.
St Eugenes is a Midland Heart sheltered housing project for men experiencing physical or mental health difficulites. Spring to Life has worked with them over the last five years, doing a range of theraputic acitivites with its customers
Spring to Life is coming to the end of the 2016-17 season of delivering well-being programmes to people in Birmingham. This has been funded by the IAPT scheme (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), a nation-wide NHS scheme aimed at supporting people experiencing depression and anxiety. It is the third year Spring to Life has taken part in this scheme – through our membership of the ‘Living-Well Consortium’. The Living Well consortium is an umbrella organisation of many groups, supporting the mental health and well-being of people in Birmingham.
Over the last year we have delivered a full range of well-being programmes and therapies, including one-to-one counselling, creative therapies, eco-therapies, body therapies and psycho-educational groups.
During this time we have achieved our best results yet in terms of improving recovery rates of our clients. This has been measured through ongoing well-being assessments, and achieving a ‘Move to Recovery’ score on these assessments. Around of 70 % of clients, across the year, who have taken part in our IAPT programmes have ‘Moved To Recovery’. A statistic that we are VERY proud of!
A core factor in achieving these results has been the work of our skilled counsellors. Our counselling service offer a diverse range of approaches, including integrative, gestalt, transactional analysis, and brief therapy. They also offer group psycho-educational groups around anxiety and stress management, as well as sign-posting to other services and opportunities in the city.
This scheme has also enabled Spring to Life to make many new links with services and community projects all over the city, and has allowed us to connect our well-being programmes with other Spring to Life projects such as Mother Gardens and Food Forest Brum. Spring to Life intends to continue providing IAPT programmes for the next year.
The New Year of 2017 started with Spring to Life developing a contract to provide a well-being programme for the clients of Freedom from Torture.
Freedom from Torture are a national organisation offering clinical and emotional care to survivors of torture, as well working to protect and promote their rights. Following a pilot of well-being groups which we ran with its Birmingham group last year, they decided to team up with us this year to roll out an extended programme entitled ‘Freedom to Live’. This aims to engage people in meaningful and therapeutic activities within the community, as part of their healing journey.
Spring to Life will complement the psychological work that Freedom from Torture do with their clients, by offering our full range of creative therapies, eco-therapies, and body-based therapies. Groups we will deliver include, art for well-being, African drumming, nature walks, educational kinesiology, Indian head massage and hand massage, diet and nutrition guidance , drama for well-being, as well as a nature conservation project.
As part of our aim to support people in becoming more anchored into the community we also hope to signpost participants to other community projects we are working in as well as activities across our wider network. So far we have signposted Freedom from Torture clients to bike repair workshops and community gardening projects across Birmingham.
Funded by Barrow Cadbury, this year we coordinated a scaled-down version of the Mother gardens model at Uplands allotment in Handsworth. The idea was to develop a network within the allotment of projects and plot holders who grow and share plants and seeds. The other objective has been to connect the wider Mother gardens and ecological networks with the network within Uplands.
A core part of fullfilling these aims happened through a seed swap day in March and plant swap day in May held at the allotment clubhouse. At the seed swap event, as well as having different gardeners come and swap seeds, we also had community seedbank projects and Ryton garden organic hold a stall. Preserves and food were sold and served, much of which were grown directly at the allotment. From the event all seeds that were left over helped populate an existing seed bank that was developed by Uplands allotment Cooperative Association.
The plant swap day was a chance for plot holders and others from the wider networks to share and swap surplus vegetable seedlings and herb plants with one another. This proved to be very successful, leaving some active plot holders enthused to hold their own plant swap day next year.
Uplands allotment is characterised by having a diverse and vibrant community of people and groups, which we were very glad work with. Groups and project we linked with included PAG (Uplands sustainability project), Urban Therapies, Midland Heart, Birmingham Metropolitan College, the Uplands bee hive, and the Uplands Allotment Cooperative Association itself. We also got a lot of support from Stonham carers group who have an allotment on the nearby Sandwell allotments.
We helped maintain and develop existing community orchards on the site, and coordinated community workdays to help re-established plots damaged by the summer floods. It was a great opportunity to bring people within and outside Uplands allotment to work together.
A big part of our input at Uplands has also been to work with Midland Heart to further develop their allotment plot, and to help develop their own Mother garden. An unexpected outcome from this was that some Midland heart
housing projects across Handsworth became Mother gardens themselves. In an effort to address social inclusion, volunteers at the Midland heart allotment, were also involved in the wider Mother garden projects and workdays around the whole allotment site.
As always the Mother gardens project has helped us develop and expand our networks, and to connect people together with similar and complimentary interests and skills. We are pleased to have met some very inspiring and passionate people who really care about sustainability as well as people’s health and community well-being.
This year Spring to Life have been busy working to help people become ‘active-out-of-doors’ with the aim to improve the well-being of both individuals and communities. We’ve been involved across a host of sites and different projects, including Creative Support, Midland Heart, Freedom from Torture, Elmwood church drop-in and the Springfield Project.
The Spring to Life community allotment was supported this year by a £1,000 grant from Comic Relief. The allotment, only two miles from the city centre, at Meadow Road allotment site, has proved a lovely retreat to take people from different housing projects and well-being services across the city. We spent the spring and summer growing a range of vegetables from seed, and have collected fruits, and grown some lovely flowers.
Activities out-of-doors have also included nature conservation workdays at Deers Leap wood where we have built steps, sown wildflower seeds and planted trees whilst also enjoying the benefits of being out in nature.
This season at the Mother Gardens project we have primarily focused on the Uplands Allotment, in Handsworth. Funded by Barrow Cadbury, we coordinated a scaled-down version of the Mother gardens model at Uplands to work with plot holders and other community projects based there, to share plants and seeds. This included organising a seed swap day and a plant swap day, where both plot holders and people from the wider Mother gardens network attended. We also helped maintain and develop existing community orchards on the site, and coordinated a community work day to help re-established plots destroyed by the summer floods. It was a great opportunity to bring people together within and outside Uplands allotment.
Part of this work at Uplands has also been with Midland Heart working to further develop their allotment plot. In an effort to address social inclusion we have involved their service users in the wider Mother garden projects and workdays around the site.
Walking for well-being. We have carried out a number of nature walks by taking people by bus to a wide variety of accessible nature spots in and around Birmingham. This approach was aimed for people to then be able to access these places independently of us. Sites included Martineau gardens, Moseley Bog, Priory Woods nature reserve, Highbury park and community orchard, and Deers Leap wood.
We finished the summer with a minibus trip to Kinver edge – a beautiful and unique National trust site, characterised by cottages built into sandstone rock, abundant wildlfe and stunning views of the Staffordshire countryside. People from different parts of the city joined us and enjoyed it immensely.