Hackney City Farm was funded to deliver a six week therapeutic gardening group in collaboration with Gaia Therapy offering weekly activities that brought together a group of people struggling with acute mental health difficulties.
Hackney City Farm had partnered with Gaia Therapy to deliver therapeutic services immersed in nature prior to the pandemic, so when Covid-19 hit, they were acutely aware of the extra impact and strain this would have on those with mental health challenges. They were therefore well placed to jump into action to fill the gaps that were contributing to a building mental health crisis.
The Garden Therapy Group catered predominantly for ethnically diverse members of the community and others that experience mental health challenges but ordinarily couldn’t access other support – due to cost, NHS waiting lists, not knowing they were eligible for services, or not recognising they could get support.
I really love and enjoy the way the project is running and wish it was a bit longer.
Nine people would meet weekly for three to four hours for six weeks. Sessions involved a combination of activities and gathering in a circle to discuss experiences around different themes each week. Activities included gardening, woodwork, conservation, beekeeping, talking and being outdoors.
Chand Starin Basi, a trained psychotherapist from Gaia Therapy project, co-facilitated the sessions with Ken Hayes, Volunteer and Education Manager at Hackney City Farm, and was available for individual conversations.
Ken explained to us that working in partnership added great value and they were able to be process-oriented – “The focus was on enabling the group to create their own dynamic and their own set of priorities or activities… to give people space to experience something different and the opportunity to share, experience and learn, and then to see where that went.”
The project received glowing feedback from attendees and the positive impact was clearly demonstrated in the high attendance levels week after week. One attendee reports,
“The project has been very refreshing and innovating for me in these challenging times. It has helped me to express myself, hear other people’s stories, speak on mine and get out to be surrounded by beautiful nature. I really love and enjoy the way the project is running and wish it was a bit longer.”