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Hello and Greetings from all at the Centre for Ecotherapy!
Once again it is time for a little round up of events, new partnerships, new workshops and courses at the Centre for Ecotherapy, Stanmer Park, Brighton.
2017 felt like a stabilising year with people joining the project on different levels. In Spring we welcomed three new Directors: Jo Dempster, an experienced international youth worker and youth advocate, Odile Rapoport, a professional gardener now studying an MA in Occupational Therapy, and Chris Holden, who comes on board having used the Centre to improve his personal wellbeing and who therefore has great insight into how the service affects its service users, Later in the year we also welcomed Julia Blagborough on board. Julia brings fundraising expertise and play therapy to the Centre for Ecotherapy skills bank.
In terms of volunteers, 2017 saw great commitment from a number of people who provided real support and enthusiasm to the weekly drop-in sessions. A good volunteer brings solidity to sessions, enabling the facilitator to concentrate on the needs of new clients. Both the allotment and the wilderness site have benefitted from these additional regular participants and site developments have cracked on apace. Thanks go out to all those who have given of their time and energy over the past year. You are truly appreciated!
Community Therapeutic Services
Wilderness site – Monday, Ecotherapy group
Over the course of 2017 the Ecotherapy group have built, by hand, the new amazing weather-proof shelter. This shelter provides an 8m circular dry space for the use of our groups and blends perfectly into the background. It is built using chestnut posts and sycamore and hazel poles. It utilises a reciprocal roof design meaning that the roofing poles hold each other up, without the need for a central pole, making a beautiful workable space underneath. The roofing material, artificial grass, was kindly donated by Gerard and Peter at Perfectly Green in Uckfield. There is still a little work needed to complete the shelter, but already we are using it in rain, sleet and snow and, with the addition of a fabulous fire bowl, Ecotherapy group members feel able to withstand any weather!
Come join us on Mondays, 10am-1pm
The group help with the maintenance and development of the wilderness site: pruning, weeding, mulching paths, building planters and a shelter. Play with natural art, whittle a while, make a fire or simply just be.
Allotment site – Friday, Social and Therapeutic Horticulture group
The Friday group has seen lots of new people experiencing the benefits of social and therapeutic horticulture for the first time following the start of our pilot project in March, with thanks to a second grant of £2000 from Brighton and Hove City Council. The 6-wk Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) programme, which runs alongside the Friday drop-in, has seen over 20 people referred in from city-wide NHS mental health services (including East and West Assessment Treatment Services, Brighton SMILES, Early Intervention in Psychosis unit, and some council-run residential hostels). The location of the Centre, at the back of Stanmer Park, is difficult to get to for those without personal transport. The STH programme has the enabled the Centre to provide a taxi service for 6 weeks per client, meaning some of our more vulnerable and isolated citizens can access the healing benefits of the programme. The results, in terms of clients' sense of wellbeing and confidence, have been staggeringly positive. We will be compiling a report which we will share in March. In the words of one client:
‘I found taking part in this programme much, much, better
than any of the counselling I have received...I feel happy
here, I feel relaxed here, it’s a lovely atmosphere, the
people are very kind, you’re not put upon, people listen,
and it’s nice being with people that are in the same
situation as yourself and you don’t feel so alone.’
Come join us on Fridays, 10am-2pm. Help with the maintenance and development of the organic allotment: cultivating beds, sowing, planting, weeding, maintaining paths, pond and willow arbour. Make a fire, enjoy a joke and a chat. Pick the produce as it ripens to eat raw, take home for later or cook tasty, healthy, food, over the fire, with whatever is harvested that day!
For more information about our Monday Ecotherapy or the Friday Social and Therapeutic Horticulture drop-in groups, or about referring someone to, or being referred to, the 6-week Social and Therapeutic Horticulture programme, please drop us a line by email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07517 090915.
The Centre is in the early stages of piloting a day a week dedicated to young people 16 - 25 yrs. This provision is aimed at young people who are not in mainstream school and may be experiencing barriers to education or employment, or groups of young people who would benefit from outdoor skills and confidence building activities outside of their usual daily activities.
Some initial work with students from DV8 Sussex has been very successful. One young man with High Functioning Autism commented:
‘The Ecotherapy session was quite fun, and it gave me
a bit of exercise and fresh air. I had a good stroll around
the woods. And it was great to go somewhere new. I would
like to do go back and do it again and do more wood sawing.
I would like to go deeper into the woods, and see further
along the path, because I’m curious and interested to see
what’s around the corner. There is nothing I didn't like. The
morning at Ecotherapy made me feel happy and wanting to
We would love to develop this day as part of our core activity programme, however we are restricted by funding. We welcome enquiries from youth-focused organisations who would like to refer young people and who would be interested in supporting and helping develop this programme.
Training and Professional Development
Dates for new workshops!
The introductory workshops in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture and Ecotherapy have been extended to full days following feedback from previous participants on the half day courses. We have scheduled one of each per month this year. For dates see our website.
We are also introducing our new intensive Ecopsychology course, delivered over three weekends, for those wishing to delve deeply into their own responses to humanity’s role in relation to the natural world. This exciting new course will explore the deeper spiritual and existential questions around what it is to be both human and humane that call out to be addressed at this time in our history.
For more information on any of our training workshops please go to the Training pages of the website
Workshops on the move!
If you would be interested in hosting one or both of our introductory workshops at your own venue and bringing a number of your local colleagues together, our facilitators would be happy to travel. This might make more sense if there are a number of practitioners and interested persons in one area that would benefit from our workshops. Please give us a call on 07517 090915 or email to email@example.com
Partnerships and Collaboration
2017 saw Brighton and Hove Food Partnership’s Roots and Boots project working on the allotment on a Thursday. BHFP’s Community Gardener worked with groups of vulnerable adults with multiple and complex needs, often with a history of homelessness, alcohol/substance misuse and/or mental health difficulties. Engaging in the meaningful activities prevalent on the allotment enabled group members to reconnect with themselves, their surroundings and encouraged them to step with confidence along their path towards recovery.
The Centre is proud to be a founding member of the Green Wellbeing Alliance, a collaboration of initially 8 member organisations who all work therapeutically with their clients outside in nature. Members, including the Centre, are Brighton and Hove Food Partnership, Grow, Plot 22, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Where Two Rivers Meet, Sussex Recovery College and Rock Farm. Members have been in discussion since early 2017 and were delighted to be the recipient of £10,000 from BHCC’s Collabration Fund in order to develop the Alliance.
We are delighted to be able to offer structured working opportunities to the Brighton and Hove Youth Offending Team (and are keen to get them even more involved through the Tuesday Youthday). Young people, needing to give back to their communities with work hours, come to the Centre along with their supervisor, and help with some of the more physical jobs on the sites such as wheel-barrowing woodchip for paths, clearing nettles and digging beds. Getting the young people out into nature, whilst they are making reparation for their mistakes, means that they double the impact of their time served. They receive the healing benefits of Nature, begin to renew connections with themselves and learn new skills that may help them move forward into a new phase of life once their community service is finished. The ease with which trust, self-respect and emotional resilience can be developed in a natural, supported, skills-based setting is stunning.
The Centre has recently formed an informal working partnership, sharing gardening knowledge, skills and volunteers with The Bridge community education centre. Volunteers from the Centre for Ecotherapy are running a gardening group at the Bridge on Wednesdays. If you are interested in finding out more, please call the Centre for Ecotherapy on 07517 090915 or the Bridge on 01273 687053
Sharing our Space
The Centre makes available both its sites for the use of other projects and organisations for a reasonable rent. In this way we have been happy to support Grow in its work with the Sussex Recovery College . The Centre recognises the work of both these organisations as invaluable to the local community and is delighted to be working alongside both in the Green Wellbeing Alliance.
The Centre welcomes offers of volunteering both with the practical work on site, but also for the behind-the-scenes tasks of running a project of this kind. We are currently seeking volunteers to fill the roles of:
Office Administrative Support
Website and Social Media Support
If you, or someone you know, would be interested in any of these
positions, please email the Centre on firstname.lastname@example.org
Both the Allotment and the Wilderness site are available for other groups to use. If you are interested in using a site for a nature-focused group or activity, please get touch.
For any enquiry contact the Centre on 07517 090915 or email email@example.com
Thanks for reading! Please share this newsletter with anyone you think may benefit from its contents.
We wish you all the best in 2018!
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