Wendy Chamberlain MP for North East Fife joined Elizabeth Finlay Options in Life Support worker in St Andrews Botanic Garden this week to celebrate the launch of a new volunteering programme and hear all about the partnership working which provided a work placement from Options in Life group members including Patrick.  

Over the years a strong community of volunteers from the local area have become an integrated part of the Garden, getting hands on with development and maintenance activities, whilst benefitting from spending time in nature. Many volunteers have had the opportunity to make connections with new people, grow confidence and gain a real sense of achievement whilst learning new skills. The activities include garden maintenance, education and guest experience volunteer opportunities within the garden, so there really is something for everyone. 

Beccy Middleton, Curator St Andrews Botanic Garden
“We’re so lucky to have such a brilliant group of people volunteering at the garden. They are involved in all kinds of activities, whether that’s helping with gardening, keeping our plant records up to date, or making sure that events run smoothly. The difference they make to the garden is enormous.”

Mike Ashburn, regular volunteer with St Andrews Botanic Garden
“I started volunteering about six months after I retired, as a means to stop me going "stir crazy" in the house and on a quiet walk through S.A.B.G. saw a poster asking for staff to work there! That was just over six years ago and I've done a variety of jobs since!

Some of the work that I have done, makes me wish I'd discovered it a lot earlier in life, but at least I have discovered it!

Volunteering has got me out of the house, gave me new interests and views of a life that I hadn't really experienced before! It's had me working with a great team of garden staff and volunteers and stopped me stagnating!

I've branched out to work at two community gardens also and found the same great attitudes and knowledge there also, I can't recommend it enough!”

Specialist programmes – working with vulnerable adults
St Andrews Botanic Garden undertakes a wide range of activities to support the community and as this year’s volunteering programme kicks off a key focus will be placed on further developing project strands to support vulnerable adults. Through the provision of opportunities for social connections to be made, taster sessions and regular programmes the garden will create a relaxed supportive environment, intentionally designed to improve mental health and wellbeing.

Participants can form new senses of connections to others in the community and build new skills and experiences and make valuable contributions to the charitable work of the Trust.

Examples of this work include partnerships with Options in Life, whose group members recently completed their 8-week work experience placement in the garden.

Elizabeth Finlay, Options in Life Support worker said:
"It's been a wonderful opportunity to spend time at the Botanic Garden. Our service users have gotten a real sense of satisfaction and gratification making a difference to a place the public can visit by seeing the difference their hard work makes. Some of the group are already asking when we can come back again! That's how welcome and valued we have felt from the moment we started. Thank you so much to the whole team at the Botanics, we've enjoyed every second!"

Wendy Chamberlain MP said “It’s fantastic to see this collaboration between St Andrews Botanic Garden and Options in Life and hear directly from Patrick and his family about the positive impact this has had on him.

As St Andrews Botanic Garden embarks on an exciting period of transition, what remains at the core is ensuring the garden plays an integral role as a resource for the community.  Last year the garden saw uptake of Friends memberships triple and overall visitor numbers at their highest for several years, now more than ever there’s a real demand for places where people can connect with one another and with nature and the garden is that inclusive, vibrant place.

Co-creating with audiences and community will inform the events, programmes and facilities developed in the garden.  Community consultation to date has already shaped plans for new spaces for education, research and community in the heart of the Garden. Wellbeing was identified as a key need for audiences, and this shaped the series of wellness programmes which include Mindfulness, Pilates and Nordic Walking classes, alongside working with St Andrews University students developing a ‘Wellbeing Wander’ trail throughout the garden.

Rebecca Duncan, Development Manager
The Garden is for everyone and we’re passionate about increasing access and being truly inclusive so are reaching out to new and underserved audiences to run co-design workshops to ensure that we create a needs led provision which addresses the needs of people so the Garden is filled with life and at the heart of the community, we’d love to hear from anyone who wants to get involved” 

In addition to growing volunteering opportunities for vulnerable adults, the education strand for volunteering will provide valuable relevant work experience for those looking to develop their teaching and education skills. They will be able to get involved in the garden’s Garden Explorers Club, Planet Botanic Holiday Club, Little Oaks toddler group and education programmes, which we are constantly developing.

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering in the garden, or would like to find out how we can support your group please email volunteer@standrewsbotanic.org.