A form of gardening therapy has been made more accessible for hospice patients thanks to handmade gifts from a local Rotary club.
Thorpe Bay Rotary Club has created and donated three raised planting troughs and one composter, designed to be the right height for wheelchair users who visit the Hub – an outpatient service at Fair Havens in Prittlewell. Water butts have also been gifted, helping the charity reuse rain water for planting.
The partnership was inspired by Garry Lowen, an honorary member of the Rotary. Garry, 63, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2021. The degenerative condition affects his muscles, balance and speech. Garry – who owns The Gleneagles Guesthouse in Southend – had been a member of Thorpe Bay Rotary for 20 years, but had to step back from his duties due to Covid and his diagnosis.
Garry says, “I attended the very first Therapy Through Nature session at Fair Havens where we had discussions about how we wanted to create the project and what would be required to make this happen. I knew that this new programme needed support with some basic gardening items to get it off the ground so I spoke with my colleagues at the Rotary Club and within a week we had some tools. Later, we met with the Occupational Therapist Mary-Ann to talk about how the Rotary club could support the initial development of the project further and start to turn the participants ideas into reality.”
“The Rotary Group developed the raised planters with the patients who attend the group. They’re even made out of old recycled motorcycle boxes which are donated free of charge.”
Community Officer of Thorpe Bay Rotary Club Pam Watson-Jones says, “Members were really pleased to be working together to create something that would brighten the lives of those spending time at the hospice. This is what the Rotary is about, improving the lives of others. We know there is still much to do and plans are already afoot for the next project.”
Garry continues, “I’ve been blown away by this fantastic project. We’ve even had sustainable compost donated by my cousin who works in the industry. The charity is doing all it can to reduce its carbon footprint, so it’s great that we can play a part in this. Eventually we want to grow fruit and vegetables which can be prepared in the hospice kitchen for patients.”
Mary-Ann Campbell is the Occupational Therapist at Fair Havens Hub. She says, “Whilst this may just look like gardening, Therapy Through Nature is therapeutic on many levels. Similar programmes are increasingly showing many positive outcomes including an improved sense of wellbeing and mental health with reduced levels of stress and anxiety.”
An important part of the group sessions is providing a supportive environment where social interactions are enhanced and can help stimulate conversations that may not otherwise happen. Mary-Ann continues, “We give choice to patients, helping them to regain some control. They feel empowered to re-engage in activity that is meaningful for them thereby enhancing their quality of life whilst they are on their journey with a complex or incurable condition. Our patients are the voice behind the project, planning together what they wish to sow, plant and grow, knowing that future patients will continue supporting this work for many months or years to come.”
All of the care and support at Fair Havens – including therapies like this – are completely free of charge, because of the kind donations made by local people.
To find out more about Havens Hospices, its care and fundraising, please follow the charity on social media @HavensHospices
Published 6th October 2021