Growing Support is an award winning social enterprise tackling loneliness, social isolation and inactivity. They work to deliver social and therapeutic gardening activities for people with dementia; this includes things such as weekly gardening clubs, supported by trained volunteers, where people with dementia can work in the garden and grow their own food. UWE students have played a vital role in helping to set up and deliver activities that provide support for participants, for example helping them work in the garden, encouraging conversations and reminiscence. These activities aim to exercise key muscle groups, increase social interaction and promote a sense of purpose and achievement.

Sessions are tailored to the needs of each group, but in general they are one hour long, for up to eight participants and mostly outdoors. Flowers and plants are used to encourage sensory stimulation and adapted tools and activities are provided and planned according to the physical and mental health of the participants.

There is a different activity each week according to the season and the interests and abilities of the group; typical activities include growing vegetables, planting up hanging baskets and containers, watering and weeding, green woodworking, willow weaving or felt making.

β€œIt was really valuable that so much interest was taken in the residents, and much conversation shared. I believe this to be an important part of a session, as the residents spent so much of the day alone in their rooms with no-one to talk to apart from short conversations with the staff who pop in and out during the day.”
Activity Coordinator at Growing Support

Ruth is a student who started volunteering with Growing Support in November 2014, in her final year of studying for an Occupational Therapy degree at UWE. She was looking to increase her skills and and boost her professional development. Before joining, she attended a volunteer networking and training event which Growing Support puts on each quarter in order to gain a better understanding of what Growing Support is all about and meet other volunteers, and then went on to receive induction training.

β€œI have gained a valuable insight into the care home environment and what its like to live and work there. Its been great to see the positive impact on the residents. From a professional point of view I can see how the Growing Support gardening clubs increase social interaction and help improve manual dexterity as well as the obvious benefits of being outdoors more often.”
Ruth, Occupation Therapy student volunteer

Full training is given to volunteers before they begin work, as well as optional on-going support and training sessions. Growing Support are looking for new volunteers at present for both care home sessions and a community garden they are helping to run in Redcliffe. If you’d like to find out more, please email

Volunteers hold up letters reading 'Growing Support'

Growing Support Volunteers