Each month we’re celebrating some of the community champions we’ve supported in the region.
That Friday Feeling is a gardening and community horticultural group aimed at older men that provides an opportunity to socialise, exercise and gain new skills.
Here, Martin tells us more about the project and how a Time to Shine Small Fund through Leeds Community Foundation provided vital support.
The Time to Shine Small Funds are part of the larger Time to Shine programme managed by Leeds Older People’s Forum and funded by Big Lottery Fund’s Ageing Better programme to reduce social isolation and loneliness amongst people over 50.
What ‘s the need for this project and what are the benefits for those involved?
Our research and pilot projects like That Friday Feeling tell us that many local men suffer from social isolation, low self-esteem, unhealthy lifestyles, mental health problems and long-term unemployment. Often these issues are exacerbated by sudden events in their lives that they struggle to cope with, for example bereavement, redundancy, divorce or estrangement from family or people whom they depend on. Older men are particularly susceptible to difficulties, as are men with learning disabilities, who have access to a limited and somewhat prescriptive range of recreational activities and vocational training. We also know that men in need find it difficult to seek or access the help they need.
The volunteers have engaged with our project have acquired gardening expertise, social skills, friendships and motivation through our group activities, they have been encouraged and supported to go back to their communities and, with the assistance of the group, to improve their own gardens and those of their neighbours, and have linked in with other men who may benefit from a similar boost to their well being.
Social circles of support have been increased and friendships have formed. Social isolation has been reduced and links with other community projects have been established. I also strongly feel that individual’s confidences have been increased – in some cases dramatically. Skills have been learned through our horticulture sessions and our recent woodwork classes and we managed to squeeze in some confidence/assertiveness/team building sessions as well. Most importantly has been the conversion from loneliness to having a project that they can connect with; that brings them out of their four walls re-connecting themselves with their local community.
What’s the most rewarding moment from this project?
I’d like to share Tim’s story:
“I have been involved with gardening projects in the past –I am 57 years old, do not have any friends and though I’m married, I am a lonely man. All the gardening work I used to do has now stopped and I didn’t used to get out much which left me anxious and with no confidence. I felt that I had nowhere to turn and life was pretty miserable.
I needed to get out of the house and my wife was worried about me. I needed to get back to having company and seeing people again.
Somebody I knew had heard of the That Friday Feeling and I spoke with Martin who invited me up to the gardening project based in South Leeds. Straight away I felt comfortable and at ease. I had a lot in common straight away with the other men there and started helping build the walls of the raised beds as my first task. I left that day knowing this was the project for me.
I now am involved with the project on two fronts, helping out in the poly tunnel and volunteering on the community gardening. I am out 2 days a week and am looking at joining other projects in the community.
I am really enjoying the project. We have a good laugh, get out in the fresh air, and have exercise. I am much happier and always look forward to meeting up with the guys and getting stuck in.”
What difference has the grant from Leeds Community Foundation made?
The Time to Shine Small Fund has been vital and without it the project would not have happened. The purchase of power tools was essential along with transport, fuel costs and a sessional worker. The support has allowed us to purchase all of these things and they have been the engine of the project. Having the use of vehicles has allowed us to garden in the community, helping us to transport the tools and get rid of the waste. The minibus hire has also allowed us to bring in less mobile people to the project to join in the days out. Importantly, without the fund we would not have been able to rent the poly tunnel which has been the centre of our success.
What’s coming up for you?
We are now confident we can keep the project going with links we have established with housing and elderly aid and are looking at ways to establish a social enterprise around the planter/flower/wood products aspect of the project.