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Kildare Garden Project Delights

Staff and service users at work on the Abbeyview Day Centre garden 

Staff and service users at work on the Abbeyview Day Centre garden 

 An area of waste ground at the rear of a day centre for people with severe mental health issues has been transformed into a beautiful garden – and all with the help of the service users themselves.

The new garden at Abbeyview Day Centre in Castledermot, Co Kildare was officially unveiled recently to the delight of everyone involved.

Back in 2017, the staff identified that there was no safe outdoor area for the service users to use and enjoy, and the idea of developing the waste ground to the back of the building was proposed.

“We didn’t have an area that was safe, secure and private for our service users to go for a short walk or take some time out. We also recognised that to have a project for the service users to become involved in and to be outdoors and engaged in gardening/nature would be beneficial from a mental health viewpoint and it was really a win-win situation,” explained Mark Callinan, CNM 2 in Abbeyview.  

“We cater for people with severe and enduring mental health issues and provide many services, first and foremost being socialisation and activation services, along with medication management, mindfulness, crafts, a knitting group that is currently knitting blankets for premature babies to be sent on to the Coombe, and much more. Our service users are generally over 60 and have been in the services for a long time.”

Funding was the major hurdle but one of the members of staff is a member of the local running club and proposed holding a 5k or 10k run to raise funds and get the ball rolling.

“In January 2018, we had a hugely successful run with 478 people attending and over €4,200 raised. Local businesses also gave generously. This enabled us to hire a local contractor and the garden started to take shape. Another run in 2019 provided more funds and we were able to officially open the garden in September,” he said.

“The service users have been very active in planting, watering and other garden activities and it has proven to be very beneficial to all the people who use our service, whether just going for a walk around or sitting out enjoying the good weather when it comes. The staff also make great use of it."

“We have a core group of gardeners, about five or six, who like to do some physical work in the garden, while others simply like to come out and enjoy the peace and quiet.”

The run has become an annual event and widely supported by the community.

“It has become a regular event on the local running calendar and is getting bigger each year too. It will take place this January again. We operate a stand on the day. It gives us a chance to showcase the service and hand out information on mental health awareness,” he said.

The garden project will continue with plenty of plans for the future.

“There are lots more that we would like to add to the garden, including a small greenhouse. There’s plenty to keep everyone busy,” said Mark.

“All in all, the whole project has grown legs and become much more than was originally intended. It has helped the centre to build stronger bonds with the community. Some people didn’t even know that we were here and others had no idea what we actually did out here. It has certainly raised the profile of the centre locally.

“We have also been approached to host talks on positive mental health by sports groups and possibly the local school in the next few months. We have many activities planned for the future and there are certainly exciting times ahead.”