Who We Are
BAB is a partnership of individuals and organisations working together to reduce isolation and loneliness among older people in Bristol.
About the project:
The 'Community Garden' is one of the community development projects set up by St Monica Trust in Stockwood with the aim of empowering older people to make changes in their local areas as a way of preventing loneliness and social isolation for themselves and their neighbours.
The project was initially set up by another member of the team at St Monica Trust before Jan, a community development worker, took over the facilitation of the group. Jan's predecessor had worked to connect local older people with a common interest through developing a community garden and allotment space on a barren piece of land next to the Southern Links Children’s Centre.
Jan has noted that the benefits of the project are enormous to everyone involved. The project has helped to reduce loneliness and social isolation experienced by participants as well as also fostering a sense of community, an opportunity to learn and share new skills, and an increase in participants health and well-being.
A participant’s story:
Pete is a tattoo artist, originally from Leeds, who has been attending the garden project every Thursday since it began in January 2018. He was first introduced to the group by “some older chaps” from his sheltered housing accommodation.
Pete has been living with mental health problems for a number of years, which has caused him to feel socially isolated. Since joining the group, however, he has felt that he is “slowly, slowly getting better.”
Pete says, “I like being out in the open space, I get good thoughts. I can be myself. I’ve made lots of friends here, it’s nice… Some of the other chaps have mental health issues too and we support one another, treating each other as equals – you can practice being a ‘normal’ human being. Everyone is really lovely with a good attitude.”
At the garden, Pete describes his role as that of a “general dogsbody.” He is happy to pitch in with whatever needs doing and being part of the group. This involves everything from planting and willowing, mulching apples and harvesting the vegetables. Often the group will take home vegetables from the session: carrots, tomatoes, turnips, beetroots … Pete tells us they’ve had a good crop this year and that “next year will be even better.”
Pete and other members from the group recently also attended some cookery lessons taking place locally that were recommended by the community development worker at St Monica Trust.
At the outset, when Jan took over from her predecessor, the group was already well established and self-sufficient, but occasionally needed guidance and reassurance to help them feel confident in the decisions they were making. Jan had some difficulties in encouraging the group to be more independent in their decision-making, as she had to point out that her role was temporary and decisions needed to rest with the community.
In these kinds of projects, it needs to be made clear from the outset that the role of the community development worker is to support in setting up a project, and then taking a step back to allow the community to lead on their own project.
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