Health and wellbeing

Funding level: £10,001 to £25,000


Red Zebra is based at Whitstable Volunteer Centre, from where we run a range of services including a volunteer gardener scheme. We are in contact with a large number of older people and people with disabilities who are no longer able to manage their gardens. We know that this can cause concern and distress. Not being able to manage a garden removes a source of fresh air, exercise and pleasure; having an untidy garden can leave residents at risk of being targeted by opportunistic criminals who assume that the house is empty or that the householder is an older and/or vulnerable person.

The service has run for many years, delivered by volunteers, at times managed by a paid coordinator and at other times by a lead volunteer. Involving volunteers means that we have been able to keep costs low and ask clients for donations rather than a set charge, which makes the service accessible for people unable to pay the local going rate of at least £15 per hour. The only other community gardening services we know of in nearby towns both charge the going rate rather than working on a donations basis.

The number of clients has generally been around 30 during a summer season, supported by between 5 and 7 volunteers; however in the last couple of years as funding and the time available to paid staff to support and promote the service have been squeezed, volunteer numbers have dropped and we have been less able to respond promptly to requests for the service. We have also just heard that another local older people’s charity is closing its gardening service from this month so we expect demand for our service to rise significantly.

In the light of this and the fact that the lead volunteer for the scheme is stepping down, we would like to employ a coordinator to develop and expand the service to ensure that it is able to fully meet the needs of the older and vulnerable members of our community. We would use an Aviva community grant to pay a coordinator who would be involved in the garden work itself and also recruit and support volunteers, process referrals and promote the service to the local community. We would also buy equipment and hire a van for the gardening team's use.

We'd love people to vote for our project because as well as providing volunteering opportunities for local people, it has a huge effect on the people using the service:

Mrs E became increasingly worried and anxious about seeing her overgrown, untidy garden. Due to her physical and mental health she was unable to do any garden work. As her daughter said, “it is awful to be stuck in the house and look out at the garden which is so overgrown and know there is nothing she can do about it.” Our volunteers did Mrs E’s pruning and weeding; she was grateful and relieved and her daughter confirmed that her mother was no longer distressed when she looked out on her garden.

Mrs S is 101 years old and a widow. Her garden had become major cause of distress; she had kept it tidy over the years but it became too much for her to the point where she fell twice when she tried to do some weeding and was found by her neighbour, fortunately unhurt. Our volunteers weeded the garden and pruned the shrubs, so that Mrs S could now sit and look out into her garden and actually enjoy it rather than worrying.

Mr T is 85, lives alone and is unable to work in his garden due to ill health but wanted to try growing tomatoes - he used to have competitions with his neighbours to grow the best tomatoes and really misses the enjoyment it gave him. Our volunteers made the short walk from his back door to the greenhouse safe and free of obstacles and overhanging shrubs; cleared up the greenhouse, supported a grow-bag on the bench (Mr T cannot bend down) and planted the young plants. Mr T did a “test run” to make sure he could get to the greenhouse safely and reach the plants. He was delighted and grateful, saying that he could take it from there and that he felt he now had a purpose.

Red Zebra Community Solutions

Location: Whitstable

We're proud that Grass Roots Gardening Help does exactly what it sounds like it's about our very dedicated staff and volunteers rolling up their sleeves and getting down to work. It's a very simple, very practical service which has a big effect on the health and wellbeing of the people who use it.
Back to the projects