BIG Lottery awards old people and gang-threatened youngsters £740,000 to start gardening

Two horticultural projects offering a therapeutic lifeline for disabled older people and providing community activity for youngsters living with disadvantage are sharing awards totalling £740,370 from the Big Lottery Fund (BIG).

The money comes from BIG's Reaching Communities programme, which aims to help those most in need and build stronger communities.

Older people with disabilities living in Reading, South Oxfordshire and Hampshire will get a new neighbourhood garden scheme, thanks to an award of £250,159, to gardening charity Thrive to create five voluntary garden support groups.

The project will be aimed specifically at disabled people aged over 55 years old living in rural areas and at greater risk of isolation. It will encourage people to develop new skills in both gardening and volunteering and enable them to become more active, improve their life skills, build confidence and motivation, live healthier life styles, and become more active members of their community. The scheme will also run health information sessions to provide advice on individual health issues and the overall benefits of horticultural therapy.

Project manager Susan Tabor said:  "Thrive are very pleased to have been awarded funding from the Big Lottery Fund to deliver a 3 year project for older people within the local communities of Berkshire, Hampshire and South Oxfordshire.  This funding will enable Thrive to develop its current work and improve the lives of more disabled people in the local area. 

"The project will enable individuals to gain new skills in both gardening and volunteering within their local community, helping them to become more active, improve their life skills and build their confidence and motivation."

Also awarded is a project that will include a range of horticultural activities for children and the whole community. Based at Springfield School in Broomhall, Sheffield, £490,211 has been awarded to Project Buzz. The award will fund day trips, cultural events and the development of a community garden where members of the project will be encouraged to grow their own produce.

The project will also provide a child-led programme of out of school activities called 'Springers', which will use local green spaces for play and forestry activities in partnership with Sheffield Wildlife Trust. In response to local gang issues, regular workshops will be held to raise awareness of the dangers of gang culture and help break the cycle of gang recruitment.

A 'Catch the Buzz' training toolkit will also be delivered to other organisations throughout the city in conjunction with Children's Voices, part of Sheffield City Council's participation strategy.

Kath Mardles, Project Buzz Manager, said: "We are buzzing about the next five years. Thanks to the lottery grant our project will be stronger than ever.  Children, parents and staff share in the relief and joy that their beloved project Buzz is here to stay.  As one parent said, ‘It is like a family here.' 

"We are really looking forward to building on the last three years, becoming more community wide and reaching new families.  We can now offer so much more, like ongoing courses for parents, anti gang workshops and more family activities such as den building in the magical ‘secret garden'.  The excitement was summed up by a child at the project when he heard the news and squealed, ‘We can all go to the seaside, the beach, I've never been to the beach before.'

"We will also be inviting people to ‘Catch the training Buzz with us' when we launch our brand new training package aimed at the children's work force."

Sanjay Dighe, Chair of the Big Lottery Fund's England Committee, said: "These projects are excellent examples of how horticulture can provide many accessible opportunities for vulnerable people of all ages to engage with their communities, enjoy outdoor life, gain new life experiences through to everyday support that so many of us take for granted.

"I am delighted that the Reaching Communities programme can support such worthwhile projects and we look forward to receiving more applications from groups who have ideas and activities which could enrich so many more lives."

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