from a conversation with Jayne Learoyd, her mum and a current Project Officer
It was a great team. VISP built on the Friends of Hollybush’s Wednesday gardening group lots of people came for therapeutic reasons: to improve physical or mental health, to improve health in life after retirement and the group included a wide range of people, including people with learning disabilities, students, people seeking work etc. Monitoring was an important part of the project from the start and this made it possible to track participants’ journeys with TCV Hollybush, beginning, perhaps, with one activity per week, with support, to beginning to help at the group, perhaps making drinks, becoming confident enough to encourage others and be invited to become VO’s and undertake greater responsibilities, training, qualifications and sometimes employment. Some of those VO’s are still with TCV now.
I went on to run the Inkwell Green Gym alongside the admin role. Initially funded through People’s Health Trust and later Public Health, this twice weekly group was a partnership with Leeds Mind in the garden of the old Shoulder of Mutton Pub and was predominantly about supporting people’s mental health. Much of its success was the huge variety of people that the group attracted and the amazing peer support that happened as a result. Once again, many people gradually gained confidence to progress. The garden, a huge space, became a real oasis, with raised beds, greenhouses, wildflower areas, a willow structure and was close to the hearts of so many people. Meals were shared and community activities, such as Mayday and bonfire night were enjoyed. (sadly the landlord decided to build a block of flats on the garden in 2016 although Inkwell Arts continues its vital work in the old pub)
Participants from the Green Gym and VISP groups, along with staff and other volunteers were inspired to raise money for Hollybush’s Roundhouse project through two Three Peaks Challenges People were inspired to (literally) step well outside their comfort zones, do lots of practice walks, collect sponsorship and ultimately undertake the massive challenge of the 26 mile Yorkshire Three Peaks walk, and go camping. Volunteer co-ordinator Jess Kandola did an incredible job of organising training walks, making sure people had the right equipment, food, tents, sleeping bags and were supported throughout the marathon distance walk, the mammoth climbs, the biblical downpours and the onslaught of midges. The success of these ventures led to the development of regular walking groups at Hollybush and many people have, and are still enjoying the physical and mental health benefits of walking, plus the peer support (and, of course, cake)