Growth Beyond Farming: The Impact of Volunteering at Swansea Community Farm
Volunteering at Swansea Community Farm has been at the core of the organisation since the site was first secured in 1998. Its progressive growth to a fully functioning farm has been a labour of love and hard work by countless volunteers over the past 25 years. One of the main focuses of the Farm is health and wellbeing and how engaging in farming activities can have positive effects on mental and physical health. Spending time outdoors, working with animals, and participating in physical activities like gardening can reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing. The Farm also offers an eclectic mix of skill building activities that all help towards developing wellbeing and we see the positive outcomes of this daily, which we analyse through project monitoring, informal discussions, and more detailed case studies.
"Absolutely do it!"
These resounding words come from Emrys, one of our fantastic volunteers. Emrys's journey began at Swansea Community Farm, seeking solace after battling anxiety and depression. Her quest was not just for personal wellbeing but also to acquire essential skills. Emrys generously shares her experience, illustrating the transformative power of volunteering at the Farm and highlighting its benefits. Her story serves as a testament to the positive impact that participating in our community project can bring.
“Thinking back to how anxious I was, I was an absolute mess and even coming here was so scary to me that I couldn’t even come in and ask about volunteering. So, to go from that to not just coming in here but also volunteering in other places, doing other courses and things is quite a difference. It’s funny to think how anxious I used to be coming here, especially at lunch times and break times, not knowing what to do”.
What activities have helped you on this journey?
“Over the last six months, I’ve done a lot of signs (Emrys is an amazing artist), worked with the woodworking team. We’ve been growing plants to do wool dyeing with, and the amaranth – that's looking beautiful. I’m very excited to see if they actually work with the dye. We did some wool carding, with the sheep’s wool. And pond surveys, looking at wildlife on the Farm and on the Heath”.
Have you been involved in deciding how activities are being delivered?
“Yes, I was involved in decisions around the activities. For example, planting things specifically to use to dye, being able to say can we try this and that, can we grow this and that. And I’ve been pestering for signs! I wanted to learn more about wildlife on the Heath, I’d like to do more of that next year, around ecology. I was part of the volunteer group in the interviews for the Wellbeing Officer job, helping choose the person to run the project”.
One of Emrys's beautiful designs
How would you summarise the main impact of the project activity on your life and experiences?
“Being part of the project has definitely helped with managing anxiety and depression levels, which has in turn helped my physical health as well. Socialising, actually being more confident. Being valued as a person and actually having people say – you're good at this, you can work on that. Doing all of the training we do, like Mental Health First Aid, that’s not just beneficial for finding jobs, it’s beneficial for day-to-day life. And just learning and being around people who are here for the same kind of reasons and have the same mindsets and goals and struggles”.
Has there been anything in particular that has been beneficial?
“All of it has been good! It’s hard to say one thing, and because we get a choice of what we do, there isn’t anything I would choose that wouldn’t be beneficial to me. If I come in one day and I’m not feeling particularly social, I can choose to do something on my own. Or on the days when I’m feeling a bit more social, I can do something with the team. I see the benefits, like physical and mental health. The fact that you can come into a place where you’re engaged with something, there’s always something new……. and obviously, the people, lots of lovely people".
"The confidence that you can get from coming to a place like this is ridiculously beneficial.”
A huge thank you to Emrys for allowing us to share her story. Emrys’s involvement has not only brought her personal growth and the acquisition of new skills but has also enriched us by allowing her to generously share her remarkable artistic talents. Thank you, Emrys!
As a charity, we rely on donations to keep our important project running. If you would like to support our volunteers, please do consider becoming a monthly donor. You can find out more information HERE. Diolch.