Phoenix Futures’ Recovery through Nature (RtN) programme model has three key elements that act as catalysts for self-efficacy and self-actualisation during someone’s recovery;
- Producing/doing something positive and tangible,
- Engaging with nature,
- Working as a team
I set up the programme 20 years ago and it now stretches from Fife through to Essex in community, prison, and residential settings, it’s at the forefront of our work
Our data supports RtN as being a powerful therapeutic recovery too and for many people I speak to, they tell me it is where they can find purpose, peer support and community. As well as being my focus for the last 20 years it’s great to see it become an essential part of so many recovery journey’s and central and to their wellbeing.
The isolation and uncertainty of Covid-19 disproportionately affected the people that we support so my team were determined to keep RtN functioning as much as was feasible and offer our people something to engage with during this difficult period. In our residential settings, this was simpler as the programmes remained fully open, but proved more challenging and required some innovative thinking in our community-based projects.
As soon as the first lockdown was hinted at we launched our Dig For Victory! A project I created with the intention of growing as much veg and salad as possible, it would give our people something positive to focus on and provide healthy nutritious food for people who needed it.
In our community projects, we purchased and distributed as many seeds (with compost, pots, and instructions) as we are able to access, along with distributing plants to nurture. My RtN team leaders kept in regular contact with people on the RtN programme who were living in isolation and gave them nature orientated ideas to engage with during their daily exercise. Linking people to an objective gave them something, however small, to focus on in the darkest and most challenging of times – all in line with my vision of RtN being an inclusive family.
I’ve been amazed how Lockdown has acted as an accelerant for many RtN orientated objectives, for example, we started to share suggestions and advice on conservation and horticulture and develop ideas for competitions and activities that people could realistically engage with, for example, our next project was ‘The Great Purple Potato Challenge!’ with the objective being to see who could grow the most potatoes in a bucket from a single seed potato, this saw staff, people who use our services and their families all learning how easy it is to grow and nurture healthy food that can later be eaten. We also ran ‘The Phoenix Futures’ Mission to Mars’ where we asked people to grow plants to donate to our ‘Busy Beeing Recovery!’ projects through which we are creating beautiful pollinator rich habitats from February through to November for our endangered wild bee populations (and many other species)
The lockdown afforded us time to hone in our new RtN direction;
- Creating nature-rich environments on our conservation sites
- Growing as much fresh, nutritious produce as possible (and showing how to prepare cheap, easy, nutritious meals);
- Complimentary conservation work for partner agencies – for example, we are growing several rare, specimen, difficult to grow, ancient tree species, including Black Poplar (the rarest native tree) for Lee Valley Park Ranger Service (the successfully grown saplings will be passed back to be planted on-site in the autumn).
I think it’s really become clear to me that throughout lockdown it’s vital that programmes like RtN are available to the people that we support so that we can help facilitate the powerful connection between recovery, community and the natural environment.
With the easing of lockdown restrictions under Government guidelines, we are thrilled to be able to welcome back people into our Covid-safe outdoor environments. I feel it’s now more important than ever that we have hope for a brighter future and that we share that hope.
With the growing season upon us, I’m looking forward to an enjoyable and productive year and hopefully another 20 years at least. We have some exciting developments planned that involve the communities in which we work and partnerships with amazing organisations that share our passion, keep following us for regular project updates and to find out more.