On 26th November 2014, we opened our sensory Youth Garden, which will be used by young women using our counselling services. Access to a natural, restorative space has been a dream of the Youth Team for several years, and seeing it finally come to fruition has been wonderful.
It’s widely recognised that spending time outdoors is beneficial for one’s emotional health and wellbeing. Following research, jointly commissioned by HELP and Tu Wahine Trust, and conducted by Point Research,” Breaking the silence but keeping secrets: what young people want to address sexual violence”. Young women identified a need for a less clinical, more natural space, in which survivors could spend time with counselors, reflecting, relaxing and healing.
The seed for the Youth Garden was first planted in 2013, when Russell Dawe from landscape and garden design business Inlandscape saw our newsletter with our “wish list” attached. Russell contacted the Youth Team offering to help, and has captured the vision sensitively, facilitating the creation of the garden, managing volunteers, and providing materials and labour.
“It’s a place of safety, where one can attach oneself to the earth,” says Russell. “It’s good for the soul.”
Designed to be a calm, informal, contemplative space, the garden offers a place for survivors to talk, reflect, regenerate and ‘ground’ themselves. Specifically designed to invoke peace and calmness in its occupants, the Youth Garden offers a relaxed space where young women can talk with counsellors in an informal manner. Casual seating and a hammock offer safe, restful areas in which survivors can reflect.
“Sitting side by side on the deck or seat is natural for young people, it’s relaxed, and it will help them open up,” says Youth Counselor Carol-Anne Weaver. “The garden is a place of growth, both figuratively and literally, and will help them to see ahead and visualise their futures and possibilities.”
Creation of the Youth Garden was a collaborative project, managed by Russell, the Rotary Club of Western Springs, the Lou and Iris Fisher Charitable Trust and the HELP team. As the project gained momentum, volunteers from Bunnings offered their expertise and building products, and the Mankind Project, Frontline Earthmoving & Drainage, and many other community groups joined the efforts.
On planting day, many volunteers contributed their time and energy to making the garden beautiful, and the results have gone far beyond what the Youth Team imagined. Volunteers who contributed their time, energy and resources include: Representatives from a number of local groups attended the opening, including Deputy Mayor, Penny Hulse.
“It’s wonderful to see this resource made available to HELP, which will further support the valuable work they do within the Auckland community”, she says. “This garden is a valuable asset to HELP as they support young women to progress themselves to positions of increased strength and positivity. This garden is a valuable part of the process of transformation.”
The Youth Garden is indicative of the generosity and community spirit of those in the region, and offers an incredible resource for HELP’s clients. With the support of so many embedded in its very soil, the Youth Garden allows young women a safe space where, along with the support of HELP’s staff, they can heal and move forward in a positive and empowered manner.