I am back in London and have reviewed the blog. I feel that my post did not do justice to the first two sites visited in Goteborg so I write to give more information.
At Jordhammer Vaxcraft, Rick Mulder runs two sites. The first is a horticultural nursery with glasshouses bought from a retired grower. The mainly unemployed clients grow plug plants from seed for sale and tomatoes sold in their own shop or at market for trade price. The clients join for six months and need to progress from ten hours work per day to 20 hours in six months. Participation and choice of reporting hours is voluntary. Clients must progress and move forward to help new joiners. Many (40 per cent) have alcohol or drug problems. As the addiction may be dopamine related they are assigned hard physical tasks and the other clients help assure abstinence. As well as propagation, crafts of carpentry, willow weaving and concrete moulding are done and sold. Bees are kept, honey sold and candles and hive frames made.
Other clients have learning disabilities, one was wheelchair-based. The project is funded from the health and unemployment budgets, after the 6 months the clients become workers at the enterprise, still subsidised by the government but costing less than full time unemployed. 40 per cent return to ‘work’ in the sheltered enterprise. All clients and staff eat together and provision of a nourishing lunch is important in maintaining a good state of well-being, according to Rick.
Secluded site to treat clients with PTSD
I met Annika, horticulturist and Annette, social worker on the new project. It was based at a house in the country previously used by a priest. The site has established fruit trees in blossom, a green house with a peach tree, a newly tilled vegetable patch and raised beds under construction. The two clients prefer growing flowers and learning Swedish is proving a challenge. Assistance from a computer is being considered. The house attached to the site is being restored and the ground floor provides services and a recreation room.
Report on a visit to Green Rehab in the Goteborg Botanical garden
I was met by Eva Sabin, PhD student who has been evaluating the project, based at Alnarp. The project is led by Eva-Lena Larsson, a biologist who works at the Botanical gardens and has done research on nature and health. The project was initiated by a problem experienced by the regional government of West Gotland, with over 50,000 employees, mainly in health having high levels of sick leave, stress and moderate to severe depression. The problem was highlighted in 2004, the project funded for 3 years in 2006, is being evaluated and receives about 60 clients per year. Clients with severe depression may not have worked for between 3 months to 12 years.
The site is an old gardener’s cottage, with mature fruit trees in the front on a lawn. The rear garden is hedged for privacy, as there are allotments next door. The back garden has fruit bushes, a terrace with ornamentals, a large greenhouse for propagation and the growing of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. There are low raised beds, lawn and a conservatory with indoor grape vines.
The staff are a team of five: a biologist, a gardener, a psychologist, a physio and occupational therapist.
There are four groups a year, two rehabilitating long term sick and two stress management courses. All clients are anonymous, first name only and the green programme is gardening and nature. It is complemented by the white programme of body relaxation, handicrafts, art, talking therapy and exercise (on sheep skins). The wilderness is adjacent to the Botanical gardens and this is experienced in groups or alone. Monday has slow 5km walks, using a lens to focus on nature, identify bird calls, feel tree barks and this and the garden work shows nature is imperfect, this may help clients to come to term with their problems.
Seeds produce delicate young seedlings which grow on as meadow flowers are picked and taken home. Social confidence is built by holding small parties on a seasonal basis, Christmas baskets are made. In winter, crafts with wool and willow weaving are done. Art sessions are held, with each painting dated. Clients are asked to choose different colours and use symbols. The dates help trace progress. Relaxation therapy is held with sitting, standing and prone exercises. Discussion sessions are organised so that clients support each other.
The research has shown an initial success rate after a three month rehabilitation of 93 per cent returning to work or to study. After 18 months 86 per cent are still in work or study. The project has been carefully evidence-based, and an established methodology has been followed. Green rehab is popular in west and south Sweden but not in the east.