17 May 2017

In our mission to explore and promote the importance of a mutually beneficial relationship between citizens and the environment in delivering Wales’ Well-being Goals, Catherine Miller, Environet Manager visits participants of CAIS’s Seeds2Grow project - to see how nature and horticultural activities can serve as an effective form of therapy in combating stress, depression and worklessness.

At the side of the River Clwyd in St. Asaph, hidden away there is a quiet space brimming with horticultural activity. At a small farmland site people are taking advantage of the quiet surroundings to spend time outdoors growing vegetables and taking in what nature has to offer.

The activity is part of the Seeds 2 Grow project, which is run by CAIS and funded by the ESF programme - Active Inclusion
CAIS work to help people improve their physical and emotional wellbeing to lead happier and healthier lives. Their Seeds2Grow project enables people with work limiting health conditions, such as low self esteem or issues with alcohol, to come along to the farm and work on the land. Working on the land and building interest in horticulture, whilst gaining skills and a qualification in land based activities,has proved priceless for many of the people engaged in the seeds 2 grow project.

Kay Ribbons-Steen is the Project Manager for the Seeds 2 Grow project and spends time at the farm with engaged participants, she is a former countryside warden with a passion for the outdoors. Kay helps teach participants the basics in horticulture from growing vegetables to maintaining a wildlife pond. She tells me 'the participants very often come along to the farm reluctantly, unsure of what to expect but more often than not are soon taken in by the peace and tranquillity of the place and see it as a bit of an escape from the day to day norm'. Kay goes on to explain about one participant in particular that had never spent much time outdoors and was surprised to learn that the tiny black tadpoles in the pond would soon become frogs - 'This lady was from a hard to engage background, she took some persuading that the farm may be a place where she would like to spend time.

Project Participant with seeds being grown in the farm's poly-tunnelCAIS Blog (2)

Once there she gradually opened up to the idea and has since spent time learning the basics of horticulture with other participants. The change in her perception of nature and its value is fantastic to see, it has definitely helped with her approach to looking for a job and her general state of mind'.

The enthusiasm displayed by the people down at the farm is testament to the direct link between nature and well-being. The people engaged on CAIS's farm project have all come from hard to reach backgrounds with work limiting health conditions that can act as complete barriers to traditional engagement; but thanks to the Active Inclusion Fund and CAIS they are now engaged, socialising and learning new skills - which is an invaluable opportunity.

CAIS offer job hunting support to all of their participants - job searches, CV writing and qualifications are achieved. The difference here is that they are nowhere near a traditional classroom setting, which is very often a big deterrent for people who have been out of employment and training for a while.  What may seem like a small step to some people can very often be a huge step for someone who has become largely disengaged from society. In recognition of the practical demonstration of how working outdoors is helping people's well-being, Kay adds 'Many of the participants of the project have been out of work for a long time and spent their days largely indoors with little social interaction or inclination to look for training and employment. Being outdoors and doing activities in peaceful surroundings has a therapeutic and re-energising effect on people's outlook and motivation.'

All done for the day - Peaceful surroundings at the CAIS Farm, St. Asaph, Denbighshire
CAIS Blog 3

The CAIS farm environment and the achievements made by the enthused participants demonstrate the positive impact of nature and the outdoors in helping people to open up, overcome their barriers and takes steps towards sustained employment and very importantly - an increased level of well-being.

Active Inclusion funding is available throughout Wales; find out more on WCVA's website at /funding/wcva-funding/active-inclusion-fund

Find out more about how we can invest in nature to improve environmental sustainability and improve the well-being of communities with Environet's new resources, now available for download from at /what-we-do/environet-cymru/ms4n/doing-your-bit-for-a-resilient-wales

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