Since its inception 14 years ago Headway has been supporting individuals and families who have been affected by a traumatic brain injury. The service has 73 individual members in total.
After a brain injury, individuals may experience short-term memory loss, slower information processing, psychosocial difficulties and physical functionality issues.
Services director Orla Manning said: ‘Individuals struggle to accept their new sense of self and identity after a brain injury. It is important for them to feel safe and supported.’
The garden was created to encourage Headway members to develop independent life skills, and offers a flower garden and a variety of fruit and vegetables.
‘The gardening isn’t just a physical act. It provides confidence, cognitive development, anxiety reduction and can improve hand dexterity,’ said Mrs Manning.
‘It offers a whole different forum for activities.’
Steve Le Lerre suffered a stroke five years ago and has been supported by Headway through his recovery.
‘It makes me look forward to a Friday. I can take home the produce and use it to cook, which I love doing.’
Mr Le Lerre lives alone and was unable to work on his physical recovery during lockdown.
‘The second lockdown was the worst thing I’ve ever been through,’ he said.
‘It was the unknown of when it was going to end.’
Throughout lockdown, Headway staff would pay socially-distanced house visits and have regular phone conversations with members.
‘One time, Orla parked outside my flat with her children in the back of the car. I felt pure elation at seeing them.’
Headway hopes to encourage members to get involved and contribute new ideas for the garden and has plans to expand in order for winter gardening to become a possibility.
‘There are so many positive effects of being outside. Seeing the journey of seed to growth is so satisfying,’ said Mrs Manning.
Charity member Richard Mahy worked with Generali [now Utmost] for 30 years. He suffered a brain injury after falling 10 feet from a wall into a basement courtyard in 2013.
‘Headway is like a little family. It offers a place to go when hospital finishes,’ he said.
Mr Mahy has made significant progress in his recovery and now chooses to visit Headway less regularly.
‘I now come here on a looser basis, but it is such a friendly place. I have made good friends,’ he said.
Headway thanked Utmost for its donation and for the positive impact the garden has had on its members.