Peter is one of our Gardening volunteers at a hostel in Lewisham for people experiencing homelessness. Here, he shares his experience of supporting people in their recovery from homelessness by helping them to grow and learn new gardening skills along the way.
Tell us about your role?
I work at St Mungo’s Lewisham Assessment and Recovery Centre (LARC) and run the garden group on my own. I get roughly about three or four guests taking part in gardening. The tasks include weeding, planting vegetables and fruit trees, and pruning the garden.
Our tasks at the moment are are bulb planting and sowing some wildflowers and my plan for the winter would be to build a pergola for the guests.
Unfortunately, due to lockdown last year I missed the springtime, but I’m looking forward to this year and hopefully more people can get involved.
What kind of tips would you give to someone who would be interested in volunteering as a gardener at St. Mungo’s?
My tip would be to let the guests figure out what they would like to do at first; they might just want to come and sit and have a chat or they want to do some weeding. You should also try and encourage guests to take on having their own gardening bed to grow some vegetables and flowers.
What kind of training do you receive as a Gardening Volunteer?
You receive all sorts of training from St. Mungo’s in general. The ones I have done are relating to drug and alcohol misuse as well as a conflict management session. They’ve been quite helpful to understand what the guests are involved in when I’m with them in the garden.
Do you get good feedback? Do guests find it helpful?
Guests find it therapeutic – when they come out and they do a session out in the garden for an hour or two they normally feel much better, just from being out in the fresh air.
I have seen changes in people who haven’t done gardening before, and they’ve found it a great experience. These people have also continued with their gardening once they moved on from the centre which is very positive.
What’s your favourite part of the role?
Meeting different people – they’re an interesting bunch! And the St Mungo’s staff are always so supportive; when I first started by myself, I felt quite nervous, but the staff stood by me and supported me all the way through.
What are your hopes for the future of the garden?
I’d like to see the garden flourish thorough the seasons, and I think it would be amazing if some residents could take care of the garden independently not just when I am there.
Could you be a Gardening Volunteer?