Friendship Really Matters: Growing confidence and friendships together at Livability Holton Lee – Livability

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Friendship Really Matters: Growing confidence and friendships together at Livability Holton Lee

Everybody can give something – and that’s how friendships thrive – at Livability’s wellbeing discovery centre.

chris-tagWalking around the gardens at Livability Holton Lee, everyone seems to be getting on purposefully with something – from weeding and digging to preparing vegetables to sell. Holton Lee’s volunteers represent a wide range of disabilities and challenges ‘but every single person has something to give and that’s central to the change that happens in individuals here’, says Emma Browning, manager of the Flourish horticultural therapy programme.

People arrive at Flourish with different expectations of support, Emma finds: ‘We get some individuals who’ve had absolutely everything done for them, and perhaps have been kept in a childlike role for a long time. When they come here, they find we treat everybody as equals, down to expecting everyone to wash up their own teacup. This is a real shock for some, but often that person ends up going around asking who they can make tea for. They take an active rather than a passive role and of course that helps to connect them others straight away.’

Chris has been part of Livability Holton Lee for five years, and is now an experienced gardener.

He says he was ‘very shy’ when he first arrived but now is eager to reach out to new arrivals: ‘I’ve grown in confidence here. When new people arrive, I can help them and show them the ropes, show them around. I get on well with everyone. Working here is like being at my second home. I work hard and show other volunteers how to get the job down. It’s all good fun.’

Emma Browning at Fourish, Livability Holton Lee

“In our setting, we would support him in a way that a workplace wouldn’t so he could pass on his years and years of skills.” – Emma Browning

Being able to give something, and often to teach something, to others in the Holton Lee setting has a direct impact on wellbeing and self-esteem, Emma finds, and this sows the confidence to reach out to others: ‘I showed someone around recently who is coming to the end of his journey from alcohol dependency. He used to teach patisserie at a local college, and there was a cookery class on at Holton Lee that day. When he got talking to the cookery teacher, his eyes lit up talking about all the different things he used to teach people, and they talked about the possibility of him teaching here. In his mind he was – past tense – a teacher and that’s gone because of his illness. But just because he can’t go back and be a college lecturer doesn’t mean he can’t teach at all. In our setting, we would support him in a way that a workplace wouldn’t so he could pass on his years and years of skills. Getting all those personal rewards from watching other people learn is amazing for someone’s wellbeing.’

Adam joined Holton Lee recently but already he knows his contribution is needed by others.

‘I like to make people laugh, but I’m a hard worker as well. Everyone accepts each other, whatever their ability or disability. People are understanding of each other – not judging. Every time I come here, I’m more relaxed and chilled out.’

Adam enjoys the camaraderie with other men of his age: ‘Where I live, there’s not many young people. I get on with everyone here – I like working with Chris and Robert.’ Adam has carried his enthusiasm for horticulture home, where he has created raised beds and is growing his own vegetables.

'People are understanding of each other – not judging. Every time I come here, I’m more relaxed and chilled out.' - Adam

‘People are understanding of each other – not judging. Every time I come here, I’m more relaxed and chilled out’ – Adam

For Chris, his confidence with others now extends beyond sharing a task to offering emotional support: ‘Being part of a team, I’ve learned team bonding and better communication skills. I help others when they’re upset. I calm them down, talk to them, take them somewhere quiet. I get them to explain the situation and what they feel.’

This broad acceptance of each other creates a family-like community, suggests Emma: ‘We see some individuals who have the most amazing families and they are completely supported and we see others who are absolutely on their own, even if they do have family around. They come here where nobody judges you, nobody expects you to be anything other than who you are. That kind of real acceptance and genuine love really does exist here. Love is a not a word you usually use professionally but that’s exactly what it is. And love is what you’d find in a healthy family setting, which some people have just lost.’

Watch a film about the Flourish project, made by the people who take part

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Supporting people recover from mental health illness by taking part in Flourish – our horticultural therapy programme at Livability’s wellbeing centre.[/column][column type=”1/3″] ashley-place-tag
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