A big Friendly welcome to my first Newsletter for the Friends of Gardening Leave website – it will be a bit more informative than my previous offerings on the Gardening Leave website as I hope that by letting you know more about what we do and where we are going, you can tell other people which is a huge part of being a Friend of Gardening Leave.
November started with a Trustees Meeting at Auchincruive when we welcomed Annie Lyell to the Board. The Gardening Leave model has a Trustee who is ‘local’ to each project who will be on hand to keep an eye and be available for important visits and Annie will be looking after the 4th Gardening Leave project at Rosendael in Broughty Ferry, our first on the east coast of Scotland.
I had a very busy week of meetings in London; I spend one week in 4 there and Gardening Leave Chelsea at the Royal Hospital is really finding its stride.
To mark the end of our first year at the Royal Hospital, we arranged briefing events for current and potential funders early in November, and then the following week for current and potential referral agencies.
Both events were well attended and our guests seemed enthusiastic and engaged and really enjoyed their tour of the new site for our garden in front of the Margaret Thatcher Infirmary. It was very encouraging that representatives from SSAFA Forces Help (ssafa.org.uk) and the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (veterans-uk.info) joined us and I hope that they will soon send us referrals – they seemed pretty keen!
During my week in London Tara and her team had a Volunteers’ Training event – it’s so important that we give our precious volunteers the opportunity to meet each other so that they can support each other; most of the day was social but Tara also did some Horticultural Skills modules which cover the gardening activity which takes place at Gardening Leave which were very well received by our volunteers – we always need more…!!
Padre Jim Smith OBE again did the honours at our service of Remembrance at Auchincruive which this year was attended by nearly double the number of veterans as last year. It was a private service but a very good illustration that our veterans feel safe in the environment which we provide for them at Auchicnruive.
Kate and Wilma, our Horticultural Therapist and her Assistant who will be starting Horticultural Therapy sessions at Gardening Leave Rosendael in January, came to Auchincruive in November to spend a week with Pamela our Horticultural Therapist and Evelyn our Administrator. This was a valuable opportunity for Kate and Wilma to see Gardening Leave in action and ask us all questions about how we approach our unique client group and our essential policies and procedures which make their day enjoyable and stress free.
So much of what Gardening Leave does is about providing an environment where veterans are among staff and volunteers who understand the challenges which they live with and it’s really important that we support our staff and volunteers so that they are able to provide this.
Anne Hislop from Investing in Volunteers (investinginvolunteers.org.uk) came to Auchincruive to tell me about the award which, as Gardening Leave works towards it, will help us to standardise our volunteering practise – they really are so important to our work by providing a friendly ear and vital social interaction.
Much of my time is now spent meeting other people involved in the provision of services for veterans and raising the profile of Gardening Leave amongst healthcare professionals and the Armed Forces community and this month I went to an Armed Forces Network North East meeting; a Battalion Health Fair hosted by 1 Royal Irish at Clive Barracks, and a conference about Scotland’s new mental health strategy in Edinburgh.
Another busy month at Gardening Leave – I hope that in the coming months you, our precious Friends will get a better idea of what we do, where we are going and how, if you would like to, you can get involved.
Very Best Wishes,