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Sow and Grow!

26th May 2021

A courtyard area at St Luke’s hospital in Armagh is undergoing a transformation thanks to service users, carers and staff from the Community Addiction service who have teamed up with the ARC horticultural project for people with learning disabilities.

The project has been developed through ‘SoHope’ (Southern Hope) which is a group of staff and service users who work together to improve addiction services across the Southern Trust area.

Richard Hale, Service User

The Arc Day Opportunities programme have experience in developing environmental projects as well  as growing the plants at their base in The Arc, Bessbrook and designing and making all of the  woodwork items. It is hoped that the new look courtyard complete with shrubbery, an allotment area, lawn, seating area, bird table and ‘bug hotel’, will offer a calming outdoor space for staff, service users and carers to enjoy.

Joanne Stewart, Day Opportunities Support Worker, Martin McClatchey, Service User and Joe McCool, Service User

Joe McCool, Service User and Martin McClatchey, Service User

Julie Ann Gray, Team Leader for the Community Addiction Team explains:

“Physical exercise can have a really important role in recovery from alcohol or drug abuse, helping to prevent relapse and for general overall health. We also know the benefits of being outdoors and connecting with nature for our mental wellbeing.

“Based around the five steps to mental health and wellbeing, this recreational project has brilliant therapeutic benefits for our service users. We are all really enjoying working together each week and getting to know our new friends from the learning disability service who are sharing their expertise in gardening and teaching us new skills. It is giving everyone involved a new interest and real sense of purpose – that we want to create a beautiful outdoor environment for us all to use.”

It is hoped that once completed, the project will have longer term benefits for service users as Lydia Scholes, Community Addiction Service Co-ordinator adds:

William McGrory, Scott Gray, Patrick Donnelly all Service Users

“While we are all enjoying the challenge and seeing our weekly progress, we hope that through this project we are sowing the seeds of a positive lifestyle change for our service users. Once completed, there will be ongoing maintenance involved for our service users, tending to plants and growing their own vegetables. This will be a place for them come to take time out for quiet space, fresh air or to enjoy some exercise as part of their ongoing recovery.”

Paul McClathey, Service User

The project has been funded through the Mental Health Innovation Fund from the Department of Health.

The team would also like to thank Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, who have supported with expertise and resources, materials.