Job centre workers get hands-on to help Sensory Centre’s garden grow

Alex, Sam, Anne-Marie and Ally
Alex, Sam, Anne-Marie and Ally

Spring is in the air for Forth Valley Sensory Centre which will welcome new planters when its kitchen garden opens later this month.

But the planters aren’t just going to provide goodies for the kitchen, brighten up the garden and smell amazing.

Volunteers from the DWP got busy for the Sensory Centre in Camelon

Volunteers from the DWP got busy for the Sensory Centre in Camelon

They have also provided a unique volunteering opportunity for staff from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) who want to help others and feel healthier into the bargain.

During March, 15 volunteers helped Forth Environment Link Falkirk made 16 planters for the Sensory Centre’s new kitchen garden.

The environmental charity, which has a base in Falkirk High Street, is also helping the centre plan its new garden, after consultation with centre users.

Many of the volunteers were staff from the Department of Work and Pensions, who are given time off to take part in community projects such as this.

Ally Bryce, who works in Falkirk Job Centre and lives in the area, was keen to get out of the office to do something worthwhile.

He said: “My Mum used the Sensory Centre, because her vision was going, so that’s what attracted me to volunteer.

“I sit in the office all day, so it’s good to get out and do something.

“I tend to volunteer for projects that I have a connection to, like the Sensory Centre for my mum, or MacMillan for friends who have had cancer. I’ve also done things like mock interviews with high school kids, to give them interview experience.”

His colleague Anne-Marie Peebles was also pleased to find such an opportunity on her doorstep.

She said: “I just live a few miles away and I know the Sensory Centre quite well and people who have used it. I hadn’t heard about Forth Environment Link before, so it’s great to find out what’s going on locally.”

Other volunteers were happy to travel a few miles to take part.

Alex Campbell, who works in Kirkcaldy for the Child Support Agency, was especially keen to help with this task as he makes rustic planters in his free time.

He said: “The more manual the better, I like to be outside. When you back to the office you feel refreshed and ready for work. We get time off and charities get the benefit. It’s a win, win.”

As well as DWP, FEL hosted volunteer groups from the Sensory Centre and Zero Waste Scotland.

Food & Growing Development Manager, Emily Harvey said: “As well as giving advice, we’ve also learned a lot from talking to users about their needs.

“For example, some people with sensory impairments won’t wear gloves because that is how they navigate.

“We’ll be planting thorn-less varieties of soft fruit around the perimeter, so people with sight problems don’t scratch themselves and the centre can make jams for their community café.

Forth Environment Link offers a variety of volunteering opportunities from helping with textile workshops and community cooking classes to cycle ride leaders and events

For more volunteering opportunities visit Forth Environment Link