The Sydenham Garden Project is a community charity, providing gardening, nature conservation and creative opportunities for the wellbeing of local residents and, in particular, those with mental health problems.
Run in partnership with MindCare (part of Bromley & Lewisham charity Mind), the garden is a haven where local people can gain confidence and self-esteem through working together and feeling part of a safe and trusted community.
Training is offered in horticulture, conservation and arts and crafts and a programme of therapeutic activities has also been designed to support those with early onset dementia. Referred clients, known as co-workers, work alongside regular volunteers and trained staff in this hard-working and enthusiastic green community.
For many clients the garden has marked the beginning of a positive new start, helping them to live alongside conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and the lack of confidence, disorientation and low self-esteem that can result.
The garden is living proof that the self-esteem, energy and reward that come from physical activity, team work and a healthy dose of fresh air can have a dramatic effect on a person’s outlook and overall quality of life.
Building up confidence again
Ronald Pearce began attending gardening sessions after his partner sadly passed away. The programme was recommended by his psychologist as a way to help him get out and about more, as Ronald had lost contact with the outside world after being the primary carer for his partner for many years.
At first, Ronald wasn’t sure it would be for him, but, in the end, he enjoyed meeting everyone and didn’t feel awkward or frightened, as he had expected.
‘I’m just glad I attended,’ says Ronald. Sydenham Garden helped him to come to terms with the changes happening in his life, got him through difficult times like Christmas and his late partner’s birthday, and now Ronald no longer feels like an outsider. ‘I could not have made all the progress without Sydenham Garden,’ he says.
If you’ve been inspired by the work of the Sydenham Garden Project and you want to help more people cope with mental illness, build confidence or find work again, please make a donation to SLaM today.