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Nico’s Story: Reaping the rewards of allotment volunteering

Nico

I started at the Manchester Mind allotment plot in June 2020 and have been a regular most weeks, except during the winter months.

“This volunteer role is like nothing I have ever done before, it is so different to any paid work I have ever done.”

I had for some time wanted to be able to volunteer, but it has never been something I was able to commit to due to work demands. Redundancy brought about the opportunity. I had spotted the vacancy by signing up to the Volunteer Centre Manchester newsletter and applied straight away.

The team have been so welcoming and supportive, and really invest in you as an individual. I find the time I spend at the plot and the mindful activity of gardening really helps distract me from the chronic pain I experience. Being a volunteer here has allowed me to work towards my values and contribute to the community’s wellbeing. Helping others by working on a team project brings a real sense of achievement that I find very rewarding. I also learn new skills, which I am able to use to benefit my own little garden.

Although I am unable to help with the heavier work that the allotment demands there are plenty of tasks that I can complete such as sowing, transplanting seedlings, potting on, weeding etc.

I love woodland walks and was invited to lead a foraging and seed bombing walk for the volunteers where we collected nettles to make pesto and comfrey to make comfrey tea for our vegetable plants. The weather was kind and it was such a lovely outing for us all to go on, a really beneficial mindful activity for us all to take a break and get lost in that moment together.

Being a very creative person, I was also invited to put together some ideas to add some decorative touches to the plot. Some fun projects that we could work on together, making use of recycled materials. I put together some colourful mood boards and we are at present working our way through the projects together.

At our allotment’s new sensory garden open day, I led creative activities including painting positivity pebbles with flowers and insects, and creating labels for our vegetable patches from broken terracotta pots. This project was funded by the sale of some excess veg plants, which I sold on my local WhatsApp group to enable us to buy the art materials. We had such fun with this and it was great to see many of the visitors enjoying themselves, connecting with their inner child and leaving their mark on the plot.

“It has resulted in the plot being covered with splashes of colour and pretty flowers and friendly insect smiles peeping out at you whilst you work. As well as now easily being able to identify where each of the vegetables are. We are growing so much at the moment; Amy has done a great job in her planning of the plot this year. Harvesting is one of my favourite times on the plot!”

Since I joined up as a volunteer I have also benefitted a lot by being able to access other support through Manchester Mind. I am at present struggling with my health, which has in turn meant some financial struggles too. The Mindfulness and Building a Healthy Future courses have really assisted me with my wellbeing. I have also been supported with benefits advice and food support whilst my health has been a struggle. The allotment staff, volunteer team and Tara, the Volunteer Coordinator, are really supportive to me, of which I am very grateful.

The addition of the new sensory garden at the plot is so very exciting. Such a lovely idea to have a dedicated space, a quieter space for private chat, for contemplation, and it brings the opportunity to have more people at the plot for mindful and creative activities. It will be a space to recharge, somewhere for comfortable breaks, allowing us to refuel and then continue our work. It shows just how much the volunteers are valued. I have never experienced a purposely built sensory space, so I am greatly looking forward to what it will bring. At the Open Day, Resilience Coordinator Ruth treated us to a meditation, and it was just lovely with the sound of the birds and the water fountain too. I am looking forward to spending more time in this peaceful setting.

You can find out more about our allotment here

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We know that the lifting of all existing restrictions with regard to COVID-19 will for many people be a relief and be welcome, but for others it will be causing great anxiety.

As an organisation we need to ensure that we are managing these changes carefully and have a service update detailing how we will be responding over the coming months.

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