I began volunteering with HCGA over 2 years ago. I saw a leaflet for ‘Get out There!’ and thought I would give it a try because I used to be a gardener and wanted to take part in some regular physical activity as felt I needed to do more exercise.
I came along to ‘Get Out There!’ and gained a lot from the 12 week course so looked into further volunteering opportunities with HCGA. I then attended ‘Grow Well’ and began volunteering at Phoenix Farm on a Friday and at the glasshouses on a Wednesday morning.
I have suffered with my health throughout the years. I have recurrent depression and type 2 diabetes which I manage through medication. I feel that the regular sessions with HCGA have benefited my health both mentally and physically. The fresh air and exercise is a big positive and I much prefer this to going to the gym where I felt like a “hamster on a wheel”.
Coming to the glasshouses and learning about plants and nature helps me, it’s good for the soul.
I live alone so find the regular social contact of the weekly sessions to be very valuable. It prevents me from becoming socially isolated and I look forward to meeting people each week.
Highlights have been HCGA’s regular trips, including a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, Christmas Pantomimes and a visit to Kew Gardens. The sessions have also enabled me to visit different places outside of London and I enjoy the group walks that are held throughout the year. I visit the HCGA website every couple of weeks, which is useful for keeping up to date with any events and workshops that are taking place. I recently tried a flower drawing workshop which I enjoyed and has encouraged me to do more creative activities.
I live in a flat and do not have access to a garden, so find the time I spend at the glasshouses and farm to be extremely therapeutic. It enables me to connect with nature, learn new skills and gain knowledge in something I enjoy. As a result, I feel this has influenced how often I visit my GP, usually now only having to go for repeat prescriptions.
HCGA staff have commented that they have seen a noticeable change in me from when I first joined over 2 years ago. I was more withdrawn and far less communicative; my social skills have greatly improved and I am now far more confident individually and within a group setting.
The regular, ongoing sessions with HCGA have benefited me in numerous aspects of my life. Just coming along and enjoying the weekly activities has been enough and I appreciate that I have not been made to do anything I don’t want to do. The sessions have supported me to be active outdoors and given me the confidence to try new things. I am now looking into other volunteer opportunities within the local community, to do alongside my time with HCGA.
I began volunteering with HCGA over 6 years ago. I heard about the organisation at the Time of Your Life event at the Town Hall and thought I would go along to one of their sessions as I have always enjoyed gardening.
I am originally from Iraq and have been a single mum since 1990. I have two children, a daughter aged 33 and son aged 27. My daughter is mentally and physically handicapped as she suffers from a genetic disease called Sanfilippo Disease. She is immobile and needs constant care.
Four days a week Serena goes to a day centre from 10am – 3.30pm and on a Wednesday she attends a Respite Care Centre. This means that I can attend HCGA’s volunteer session on a Wednesday morning, which I thoroughly enjoy and it helps me to relax. I also sometimes help at the Grow Well sessions on a Tuesday as a peer mentor for other carers and I am involved with the Carers Network in Hammersmith and Fulham.
I am limited to what I can do during the sessions when my daughter is being cared for as it means I often arrive late and need to answer phone calls. Everyone at HCGA has been really understanding and helpful and I am always made to feel very welcome.
I like cooking and sometimes bring in food for everyone – my homemade dolmades are always very popular! I once took home a pumpkin that the group had grown and used it to make soup which I then shared with everyone. I also really enjoy sewing and have previously made bunting for HCGA to use at their events.
I really enjoy going on the different outings that HCGA organise, we recently went to Kew Gardens. I have particularly enjoyed the herbal haven sessions, making simple cosmetics, home remedies and household products from herbs.
I have learnt such a lot from volunteering with HCGA, the group is like a family. I relax a lot when I am at the glasshouses, it helps me to forget my family problems and I feel like a different person when I’m there. I love being outside, taking the time to do something that I enjoy.