An introduction to Veterans’ Growth, one of VOS’ partners within the Veterans’ Places, Pathways and People programme.
Veterans Outreach Support is proud to be the grant holder for the South-East region Portfolio of the Veterans’ Places, Pathways and People programme, working with our partners to provide activities, services and support to local veterans. To showcase the excellent support and mental health resources for veterans that these organisations offer, we’re giving you a deeper insight into what they do and shining a spotlight on the hardworking people who run them. Today we’re going to share an introduction to Veterans’ Growth, and we’ve invited them to share some details about who they are and what they do.
What is Veterans’ Growth?
Veterans’ Growth is a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting military veterans from the tri-services by providing horticultural therapy to combat isolation, stress, and anxiety in a welcoming social environment. build social relationships during their time with us.
The courses they run aim to reduce participants’ levels of stress, anxiety, depression and isolation. They seek to establish long-term social connections within the group and with the individual attending. They also aim to provide an introduction to horticulture that can be used once the course is over, for a hobby or future career.
‘Rooting for’ Your Mental Health
Veterans’ Growths courses include one-to-one sessions and group work, with Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) provided to participants.
During assessment, individuals’ needs are considered, and the programme tailored to these. Generally though, the course consists of a combination of mainly physical horticultural activities, alongside additional sessions such as theory-based learning, visits to sites of interests, talks and presentations on subjects such as horticulture or wellbeing, therapy sessions and social activities.
Horticultural therapy has proven massively beneficial to those dealing with mental health issues, and Veterans’ Growth’s aim is to provide a complementary therapy which can support other forms of treatment.
During their time on site, participants socialize with other veterans, gain confidence, knowledge and experience and some go on to find employment within the horticultural industry. Being outdoors in a green environment, being physically active, interacting with the local community and each other, learning about nutrition through the growing of food and learning new skills is all part of a typical day at Veterans’ Growth.
‘Simply being on site, surrounded by nature and green space is a tonic for many of our visitors.’ -Veterans’ Growth
Planting the Seed: How This Veterans’ Charity Started
Set amidst beautiful Sussex farmland, their site offers a relaxing green space where veterans can come to immerse themselves in nature and learn horticultural skills, but how did it start?
Jason Stevens (CEO) is a veteran of 16 years in the Army. He undertook tours in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone and spent time in Germany. He was medically discharged from the MOD in 2016, after he suffered a bilateral stroke caused by a hole in his heart. The stroke has left Jason with disabilities, both physical and cognitive, and he was also diagnosed with PTSD and has been undergoing treatment.
Jason spent some time at Headley Court undergoing rehabilitation after his stroke and found the only thing that seemed to have any impact on his mental wellness was gardening. He felt horticultural work better equipped him mentally to deal with his problems, putting him in the right frame of mind to get the most out of rehabilitation.
In 2018, After reading a report of the 42nd veteran suicide that year, he knew he had to do something. What better way than the way that still helps him, through horticulture? So, he sold his business to fund the start of Veterans’ Growth.
Since that moment, Jason and the other members of the Veterans’ Growth Team have been committed to providing the much needed support back to veterans and their community.
“Please know that the service you provide is amazing and incredible at the same time. As I seek to recover from my illness (PTSD with dissociation, adrenal burnout syndrome, severe depression and anxiety) I value my time at Veterans’ Growth and can feel the very real difference it is making to my life” – VG Participant.
Digging In: Ways You Can Get Involved
If you want to get involved by attending some of the horticultural sessions check out their website for all the details on how to join.
The programme is open to male and female veterans over the age of 18 and is there to provide help to those in need of urgent or long-term support.
Veterans’ Growth receive no government funding and rely on people’s generosity to enable them to continue supporting ex-service personnel from the tri-services.
There are loads of different ways you can get involved to help veterans and their families. Even if you don’t have much time or money to spare you can still make a huge difference. If you want to find out more about Veterans’ Growth, join them or support them click here, or check out the Veterans’ Growth podcasts click here. (The latest podcast features Andrew Fisher Tomlin, Winner of many RHS medals, who talks about his involvement with Veterans’ Growth, and how gardening can help everyone, not just veterans with many issues in life.)
Veterans Outreach Support is grateful to Veterans’ Growth for offering this insight into their organisation, and we are proud to work with them to support veterans, serving members of the British Armed Forces and their families.
If you’re a veteran from the UK Armed Forces or the Merchant Navy (from any time of service) or a partner to one, VOS would love for you to join our community. We are here to offer our support: call us on 02392 731 767, visit an upcoming drop-in, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.