People who volunteer at Thrive experience better mental wellbeing as a result of their work with the charity, a study has found.
Volunteers were asked why they give their time to Thrive as part of research conducted via interviews and a survey by Imperial College London.
Volunteering roles at Thrive vary but many people work outside alongside client gardeners and Horticultural Therapists and this access to nature was regarded as a positive by those questioned, helping them find perspective on previous experiences as well as issues they are facing.
In interviews, volunteers said the mental benefits of volunteering range from a general sense of `feeling good’ as a result of helping others, to a more complex sense of `self-therapy' for those who suffer from mental illness themselves.
The study revealed high levels of satisfaction among volunteers, 87 per cent of which work directly with client gardeners.
Thrive CEO Kathryn Rossiter said, 'Thrive is all about promoting how good gardening is for health and wellbeing, so it’s very encouraging to see that many of our volunteers receive these benefits during their time with us, which on average is nearly four years.
'Volunteers play vital roles across Thrive’s three sites and their contribution to the day to day running of the charity is enormous. Their commitment, which often goes beyond what is expected, is much-appreciated.’
Thrive has 255 volunteers and the survey suggested their main motivation for giving their time and skills was helping client gardeners and understanding their needs.
Looking after the gardens was the second most popular motivator, particularly among those from horticultural backgrounds such as retired gardeners who appreciate the high standards of the Thrive gardens: 'Being in a beautiful garden is very important,’ one volunteer told researchers.
During interviews, personal benefits also came through as reasons why people volunteered. For volunteers who had retired, coming to Thrive helped establish a routine and provide purpose.
Having a better understanding of physical or mental disability was also cited as a reason for volunteering among people who were either also facing such challenges themselves or had relatives who are.
Although the social nature of volunteering at Thrive was not seen as a reason for starting to volunteer in the first place, researchers found social benefits were 'an important unexpected outcome’.
As well as socialising with others, people also appreciated the status that comes from having a `socially meaningful role as a volunteer’.
Join us as a volunteer
Thrive has volunteering opportunities at our Birmingham, London and Reading centres and regularly runs volunteer taster sessions where people can come along and find out more.
A volunteer’s perspective
Mary Blackburn, pictured above, has been a Thrive volunteer at our centre near Reading for 23 years.
She comes very Thursday to help clients with a variety of gardening tasks and enjoys seeing the difference the therapeutic sessions make.
'You see a lot of progress,’ says Mary. 'I find the clients friendly, they have a lot of respect for you and really appreciate what you’re doing for them.
'I think the clients do as much for me as I do for them if not more.’