Battersea Park is where Thrive in London is based and this too was my main base during my month placement in August 2015. I was fit as a fiddle by now after my cycling to and from Woburn Abbey and the four miles to Battersea Park through parks and a dodgy high rise estate seemed like nothing.
On Mondays and Fridays a ‘Boursin’ group of service users came. These groups were funded by Boursin Cheese and some of the funding paid to put the service users through a horticulture course.
These courses bring people with mental and physical disabilities together in a social context to learn new skills with the hope of them moving on to other organisations and eventually find work. Gardening is a safe and secure way to improve physical and mental health
I have experience of mentoring and buddying people with drug, alcohol and mental health illnesses already and thought working here at Thrive would not be too different. I was wrong. I found working at Thrive immensely enjoyable but challenging too. I learnt a lot from observing the staff team and asked questions on a number of occasions when I was unsure how to respond to certain situations. One such instance was when one of the gardeners frequently tried arranging to socialise with me. Working in London and not knowing anyone, these were tempting offers but I asked for support on how to say no and avoid crossing professional boundaries without hurting the gardeners feelings.
Different days saw different ‘gardeners’ (as the service users are referred to) arriving at the Herb Garden, with varying degrees of physical and mental disabilities. With Thrive’s motto being “Using gardening to change lives” they aimed to include many people from the surrounding areas.
Having horticultural knowledge and practical experience is one half of the needs for Social and Therapeutic Horticulture. We looked at various herb seedlings and the gardeners decided which herbs needed potting on. Here we were re-potting Fenugreek and Basil.
I didn’t feel overly competent with this practical horticultural aspect and my knowledge of herb identification and their uses was way below par. A planned nursery placement over this coming summer, 2016, will hopefully begin to address this.
Some of the gardeners were deaf and dumb and used sign language to communicate. I made a conscious effort to learn the British Sign Language alphabet and within a week I could communicate slowly by reading and spelling words out. I felt this was important to be inclusive with all the gardeners – being able to greet everyone in the morning and ask how they are. I also learnt some useful Makaton words for the same reason.
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