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It takes time to grow a marrow

Outstanding Activities gave a seed to Forest Healthcare and their glorious harvest continues to improve quality of life.

It’s been my pleasure recently to hear some wonderful examples of the enduring impact of change in services working with Ladder to the Moon’s Outstanding Activities programme. As our company name suggests, you can’t get to the Moon in a single step. Change takes time. It takes effort and it takes intentionality. I’d like to share a recent story of success in one of our participating services and look at the steps that were taken to create such good news.

For those of you who don’t know, our Outstanding Activities programme develops and supports participants to become leaders of outstanding social engagement in their services. The programme supports a whole service approach to life enrichment, using creative approaches to improve the quality of life for people working and living in care.

Every month, participating services receive a creative resources box. Earlier this year one such box was the Bird Box Bonanza! Forest Healthcare’s The Grange recently won our Evidence of Outstanding Activities Competition with an entry in which use of this box led to the creation of a vegetable patch in the back garden.

Since then, a Gardening Club has been established, run by the Maintenance team, which led to a meal using a stuffed marrow grown on the premises - a resident chose the meal, grew the marrow in the garden and the kitchen cooked it!

This wonderful example of whole service approach and personalisation has led to menus being based on what the residents want - they've chosen the entire list. And a Cookery club is about to start.

What fantastic developments! If a home grown food and cookery club sounds like quite a step from a creative resource box called ‘Bird Box Bonanza!’ you’d be right. It’s many more than one step - you can’t get to the moon in a single step - but the steps are linked. And every idea has a seed.

Let’s have a look at the steps:

  1. The Bird Box Bonanza box arrives at the Grange (a seed is offered!)

  2. Inspired by the box, bird feeders are made by residents and staff

  3. The residents pick a place in the rear of the garden for the bird feeders that could be seen from the lounge

  4. “The residents loved doing this activity so much that they asked to use the rest of the garden at the back for a vegetable patch”

  5. “Betty and Dorothy had been observers at the making of the bird feeders as they did not want to get involved but decided to join us when we placed them in the garden - they led the discussion about the vegetable patch and they are now keeping this going and watering it regularly and keeping an eye on its progress”

  6. A weekly Gardening club is established, run by the Maintenance team

  7. A stuffed marrow recipe is requested and a marrow is grown by the Gardening Club.

  8. Kitchen staff are enrolled and the stuffed marrow recipe is cooked

  9. The stuffed marrow is eaten

  10. Residents are offered greater choice over menus

By way of disclaimer, I ought to point out that there are many more steps here not illustrated. Not least the fact that The Grange began participating in the Outstanding Activities programme some four months before they received the Bird Box Bonanza! box. Every step also has the potential to be a first step on a different line of development.

Outstanding Activities participant Naomi Mead observed “The vegetable patch seemed to just happen as a result of the bird feeder activity and it was a surprise to us all when this activity grew in to something different.”

The staff at The Grange were open to this surprise and responsive to letting these steps develop. They protected new ideas and gave them the space to grow and develop. Residents were involved at every step. You can’t get to the Moon in a single step. You can’t grow a marrow in a day. But, given a seed, amazing results are possible in time!

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