The GAP Project was launched a year ago offering eco-therapy to people with mental health support needs in Dorset. Co-ordinator Louise Regan spoke to Growth Point about the impact of coronavirus on the project’s work.

What does your project need to survive this crisis?

Louise: 'We are very dependent on our volunteers, those that live locally to the project have been watering and maintaining our vegetable plot from which the produce is donated to local food bank. We have appealed for more volunteers who live in walking distance of the project to help with the watering rota and have provided strict safety guidelines.

'We had big plans to get our new eco-garden up and running before summer but have massively reduced these and the focus has shifted to supporting our participants over the phone and email and keeping a good supply of crops.

'To make up for lost time we will create a series of working parties where we will invite members of the public to come along and help get us back on track. We will also appeal for companies for corporate volunteering days as these have been very successful in the past.'

Watch this short film for an introduction to the GAP Project

Have you been able to access support to maintain the project?

Louise: 'We have lost some of our funding due to the current financial climate but luckily have enough funds to keep the project running for six months and are continuing to write bids for support post covid.

'We work closely with the Volunteer Centre in Dorset who have given brilliant advice and we also have the support of the rest of the Dorset Mind team who have done a brilliant job of keeping the charity running. We have a lot of support from the local community and I am planning to run a 24-hour danceathon to raise funds, and the volunteer team are keen to fundraise also.'

The sense of community is stronger than ever, so I am confident we will be able to pick up where we left off and continue to support those that have really benefitted from ecotherapy as soon as this is over.

Louise Regan, The GAP Project

How confident do you feel about the future for the GAP Project?

Louise: 'We have only been running for a year and it’s devastating to have to close our doors just as we were really blooming and seeing the benefits to our participants’ mental health.

'Though the situation is difficult we are doing all we can do stay engaged with our volunteers, participants and all our followers on social media with updates and videos. The sense of community is stronger than ever, so I am confident we will be able to pick up where we left off and continue to support those that have really benefitted from ecotherapy as soon as this is over.

'We predict there will be more people than ever needing support after the pandemic. It’s difficult to plan as so much of gardening is seasonal, we are taking one day at time and constantly revisiting our yearly calendar and adapting.'

Maintaining wellbeing through digital community

The Green Minds project is a community ecotherapy service in Wales. Jess Tanner, the project's co-lead, reports on how it is adapting digitally to Covid-19.

Find out more