Nurture from nature

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Jon Hall, Phoenix’s environment and sustainability manager, reflects on the value of nature to aid recovery from addiction and poor mental health.

Phoenix Futures’ Recovery through Nature (RtN) programme model has three key elements that act as catalysts for self-efficacy and self-actualisation during someone’s recovery:

  • Producing/doing something positive and tangible
  • Engaging with nature
  • Working as a team.

I set up the programme 20 years ago and it now stretches from Fife through to Essex in community, prison, and residential settings. It’s at the forefront of our work.

Our data supports RtN as being a powerful therapeutic recovery tool, and for many people I speak to, they tell me it is where they can find purpose, peer support and community. As well as being my focus for the last 20 years, it’s great to see it become an essential part of so many recovery journeys and central and to their wellbeing.

The isolation and uncertainty of Covid-19 disproportionately affected the people that we support, so my team were determined to keep RtN functioning as much as was feasible and offer our people something to engage with during this difficult period. In our residential settings, this was simpler as the programmes remained fully open, but proved more challenging and required some innovative thinking in our community-based projects.

As soon as the first lockdown was hinted at, we launched our ‘Dig For Victory!’ – a project I created with the intention of growing as much veg and salad as possible. It would give our people something positive to focus on and provide healthy, nutritious food for people who needed it.

In our community projects, we purchased and distributed as many seeds (with compost, pots, and instructions) as we are able to access, along with distributing plants to nurture. My RtN team leaders kept in regular contact with people on the RtN programme who were living in isolation and gave them nature-orientated ideas to engage with during their daily exercise. Linking people to an objective gave them something, however small, to focus on in the darkest and most challenging of times – all in line with my vision of RtN being an inclusive family.

I’ve been amazed how lockdown has acted as an accelerant for many RtN orientated objectives. For example, we started to share suggestions and advice on conservation and horticulture and develop ideas for competitions and activities that people could realistically engage with.

For example, our next project was ‘The Great Purple Potato Challenge!’ with the objective being to see who could grow the most potatoes in a bucket from a single seed potato. This saw staff, people who use our services and their families all learning how easy it is to grow and nurture healthy food that can later be eaten.

We also ran ‘The Phoenix Futures’ Mission to Mars’ where we asked people to grow plants to donate to our ‘Busy Beeing Recovery!’ projects, through which we are creating beautiful pollinator-rich habitats from February through to November for our endangered wild bee populations (and many other species).

Read the full blog post here.


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This content was created by Phoenix Futures