Armed Forces Veterans Invited To Join A New Project In Kings Heath

National charity Thrive is looking for ex-Service personnel to join its new gardening programme known as Down to Earth in Kings Heath Park.

Thrive uses gardening to help people with disabilities and mental ill health and has the backing for this new project from The Royal British Legion which provided the funding.

Down to Earth is open for business from July 2013 when taster sessions will be held in the park. Thrive’s experienced trainers will then each week work with former military personnel whose lives are affected by physical or mental disability including depression, anxiety, PTSD, mental ill health, or the impact of alcohol or substance abuse and arm them with the skills, qualifications and experience needed for a job working outdoors.

“I never really thought about making a living from gardening, but Thrive has made me realise that I could” – Ex-soldier Colin

Using Thrive’s established gardening techniques honed during its 38 year history using social and therapeutic horticulture(STH) to help people, Down to Earth will see former Servicemen and women learn new skills; gain a City and Guilds qualification; use these skills and knowledge to help maintain a local park and gain vital work experience which could lead to a different career, new employment or further educational pathways.

Working in a team, veterans can also improve their fitness, strength and stamina and their general health and wellbeing.

Thrive’s research shows that gardening can help people through a specific period of difficulty in their lives. It can help get individuals back on top of things and restore balance when it may feel like life is veering out of control as gardens act as restorative environments.

Andrew Hodson, regional project co-ordinator in Birmingham said: “There is a clear need for provision which fosters recovery and focuses on helping military personnel move their lives forward when they come out of the forces.”

“Serious physical injuries, amputation, sensory impairment and brain injury rarely come without considerable psychological impact and psychological problems can arise in the transition to civilian life. Whilst the majority of veterans cope, many struggle and 12,000 Armed Forces redundancies are scheduled in the next three years, this problem is set to grow – we know Thrive can help.”

Thrive, and in particular the Down to Earth programme, is supported by former soldier and army medic Rory Mackenzie.

Rory, who is a trustee of Thrive, lost his leg in Iraq in 2007. Since that day he has been on a powerful journey of recovery which eventually led to him delivering a powerful speech at the 2012 Paralympic closing ceremony.

But what about gardening? Does Rory don wellies over his prosthesis?

“My mother loves her garden and I can see that she gets a great deal of joy and pleasure from it, so I understand how being outside and experiencing nature is good for you. For those coming out of the forces with some of the issues I experienced, the chance to work in a team again, learn something new and doing it outdoors in all weathers, is just the job.

“I learnt the value of hard graft and team work in supporting my recovery, so I really hope people get involved and anyway, gardening is great for fitness – you should see the muscles on my mum!”

If you or someone you know would like to attend this programme or for more information, please contact Andrew Hodson on 07585 954031.