Seeds of Change: Matt Smail on The Urban Garden’s volunteer programme
Matt Smail, Director of The Urban Garden, discusses how their volunteer programme has made such a difference to so many peoples’ lives in 2022.
“Even before we opened, the Urban Garden became a popular destination for those wanting to contribute to a project whilst meeting new friends, reducing isolation after lockdown and learning new skills. We have continued with this level of engagement throughout 2022 with around 10 volunteers attending on our general volunteering day when we are closed and 2-3 people attending when we are open Thursdays-Sundays. This equates to almost 5000 hours of volunteer time over the whole year. Our trainees who are doing a course in practical horticulture are also able to volunteer on other days which makes them feel more a part of the project.
To ensure we continue to offer volunteers the best possible experience, we periodically ask volunteers to fill in a point scoring questionnaire that maps changes in their personal health and wellbeing, and improvements (or not) in practical skills. Of the last 12 volunteers surveyed, 90% of people scored a +1 or +2 using a range of skills and wellbeing criteria. Making new friends was the top scorer.
We also ask for personal feedback – one recent volunteer said ’The volunteering experience made me feel ok to be myself and take my time. I enjoyed listening to other people and learning. It gave me a new outlook and energy. The Urban Garden took me on a pathway back to well being that I feel I could not have found elsewhere. I feel incredibly grateful that I was able to go there and it gave me back a confidence and interest in life.’”
Support The Urban Garden by visiting this Christmas; the garden centre is open Thursdays-Sundays.