3rd June, 2020
Growing Together was a free six-month course aimed to get experienced and not so experienced gardeners together, along with people who have suffered brain injuries, so that all the participants could share their knowledge and learn both about gardening and about brain injury. It provided an opportunity for participants to help other people as well as develop their own skills. The aim was to support Headway clients to increase their gardening knowledge and enable them to move into voluntary or paid employment.
As part of Volunteers Week 2020, we spoke to 3 of our Growing Together course volunteers to find out more about their experience and what they've been up to since.
Hannah volunteered on the course in Peterborough and now helps out at The Green Backyard, where we have a community gardening group who meet weekly. She was looking for a horticulture-based volunteering opportunity locally and found it an insightful experience;
"What I enjoyed most was the fact that I was learning at the same time as volunteering and the sense of camaraderie that developed between us in the group. It was inspirational spending time with people who are contending with a life changing event such as brain injury. The parallels drawn between recovery (physical and emotional) and nature within the course were something that have stayed with me and I think I appreciate the challenges facing people recovering from brain injuries better than I did previously".
Hannah at The Green Backyard
Clare wasn't feeling fulfilled by her job and wanted to try something different when she came across the Growing Together opportunity;
"The volunteering experience was fantastic, a real mixture of different people with a variety of skills and experience in life and gardening. What I most enjoyed was seeing clients grow in confidence by sharing their knowledge and skills. I learnt that how brain injuries affect people are as individual as the people themselves. I also learned a lot about permaculture and that I loved it"
The whole experience made Clare re-evaluate where she was in her life and kick started further study and a change of career!
"I wanted to try and do something that made me happier and more professionally fulfilled. I did a RHS Practical Horticulture Certificate and then applied for a role in the Plant Varieties and Seeds Team of DEFRA. I was previously a Procurement Manager with the NHS so it's a totally new field for me. There's loads to learn but I'm working with a lovely team and really enjoying it.
For anyone thinking about volunteering I would say go for it. You will learn a lot about yourself and others and it's a very positive, rewarding experience."
Beth was introduced to Headway Cambridgeshire via the course and enjoyed the experience so much, stayed to help with our gardening sessions, and then generally at The Hub in other sessions too.
"As well as helping others (which always gives you a positive boost), the opportunity to learn while volunteering is massive. Initially, I learnt more about gardening through the course and sessions, and I began to learn about how our brains work. I have learnt lots from the clients, and through that I have been able to think about how I react to things that happen to me. The client’s strength and courage is inspirational, I really enjoy seeing everyone and talking and laughing with them - the laughter always picks me up!
The support of the staff is fantastic and through that my confidence has grown. I have made friends and in this time of lockdown I have greatly missed seeing everyone. One day, two weeks ago, I saw one of the clients out walking. I had a smile on my face for days, I knew he was safe and well and it was a massive boost for me!"
Beth with clients at The Hub
Thank you to all the wonderful people who volunteered on the Growing Together courses in Peterborough and Cambridge along with our fabulous clients and helped make it the success it was! You can check out the project's video's over on our Facebook page and find out more about our horticulture volunteering opportunities here or by contacting Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org
“ As a brain injured person it can sometimes be hard to feel positive about your progress but the gym instructor at Headway Cambridgeshire pushes me in the right direction and helps me to feel more enthusiastic about what I am able to achieve and what I might achieve in the future. ”