Real Lives

Blossoming bliss: Emily cultivates growth and engagement at Assist Trust

Emily Rice, Assistant Gardens Manager, Assist Trust

Emily Rice has recently joined the Assist Trust in the new position of Assistant Gardens Manager. Working with the Gardens Manager, Emily has responsibility for large site which includes an orchard, vegetable plots, and wild flower areas. The Assist Trust gardens are a space for service users to grow vegetables and enjoy nature, working on their mindfulness and also learning independent living and employment skills.

Before joining the Assist Trust, Emily worked in the public sector as a Trading Standards Officer.

Working for the Assist Trust has been Emily’s first foray in the world of health and social care. She was attracted to the potential of the position to combine her passion for horticulture with her desire to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals with learning disabilities. So far Emily has relished the opportunity to explore the therapeutic and rewarding nature of gardening and seeing how it can provide a wonderful opportunity for personal growth and engagement. Emily has found the opportunity to combine her love for gardening with a sense of purpose in helping Assist Trust members learn, develop, and find joy in gardening especially rewarding.

Emily finds that the service users she works with benefit so much from working at the gardens site. The members all work really hard on the individual plots, growing courgettes and pumpkins which they then harvest and take home with them. Emily says that the members gain so much in terms of ownership and responsibility by having a plot to maintain and that seeing the positive impact this has on their lives is one of the best parts of the job.

Emily has had the privilege of witnessing several positive impacts since she started the role. One of the members has struggled with communication and social interaction and has shown remarkable progress. Through working in the garden alongside her fellow members, she has developed better communication skills and built meaningful connections with others. Her self-esteem and confidence have grown significantly, and her sense of accomplishment is evident when she proudly shows off the plants and vegetables she has grown. Emily believes that it is incredibly rewarding to see such transformations and the sense of belonging that the garden provides to Assist Trust members.

Once a year, Emily is responsible for organising a summer open day which have played a crucial role in increasing visibility and understanding of learning disabilities in the local community. The open days offer an opportunity for service users to interact with community members, showcasing their abilities and unique talents. By meeting and engaging with the wider public, some of whom will have had no experience of talking to people with disabilities, the members are able to help break down stereotypes and misconceptions about learning disabilities.

The open days also create a sense of community and inclusivity where local residents can see the positive impact of the Assist Trust. They humanise the learning disability experience and encourage empathy and understanding. Over time, the open days have led to increased support from the community, including volunteers, donations, and an appreciation of the challenges but more importantly the achievement of Assist Trust members.

Ultimately, Emily has found an immense feeling of fulfilment in her new role and in being able to nurture both plants and the personal growth of service users. It has been a rewarding journey that has reinforced the importance of providing opportunities for individuals with learning disabilities to flourish and connect with their communities.

Kirsty

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