Orbit is supporting online workshops to improve mental health during pandemic

The Grow, Cook and CrEATe project, which provides online cooking and gardening workshops to reduce loneliness and social isolation across Stratford District, says it has been delighted with the number of people who adapted to it becoming a remote service during the pandemic.

With nearly £5,0000 funding from Orbit, Escape Arts Grow, Cook and CrEATe’ project has been able to adapt to the challenges of the coronavirus outbreak. They are now prioritising mental health support, by providing one-to-one welfare calls, targeted mental health consultations, self-care videos, wellbeing forums, weekly ‘cooking at home’ videos and hosting a virtual community garden.

These online group activities have helped build an online community to reduce loneliness and ensure that people remain engaged and connected.

One of Orbit’s customers, Paul, takes part in the Escape Art’s virtual community garden and writes a weekly online gardening blog. Paul lives in a flat and has been an Orbit customer for the past 14 years. During this time, he has tended to the communal garden, transforming it into a lovely shared space for Orbit residents to socialise. His hard work on the garden has even won him a Stratford in Bloom award!

Commenting on the Grow, Cook and CrEATe project, Paul said: “During lockdown, I have missed taking part in the Escape Arts gardening projects. I enjoy transforming neglected gardens into pleasant spaces for the public.

“Since coronavirus, I have not been able to do much community gardening but having my weekly blog and access to the virtual community garden is great. I can interact with other people; answer questions and share photos of the progress I have made in my garden. It is great to see how many people interact in the virtual community garden – they are all doing a great job!”.

Founder of Escape Arts, Karen Williams, explained: “When the coronavirus epidemic started, Escape Arts were just about to launch a new creative health project - Grow, Cook & CrEATe.  Within two weeks of Escape Arts closing its doors to the public, we transformed the delivery of the Grow, Cook & CrEATe project, from face-to-face workshops to online mental health and wellbeing support.

“The funding we received from Orbit has meant we have still been able to provide advice and support to those with mental health or wellbeing needs, helping them to develop skills and make new friends. The project has now got a thriving digital community and has brought people together and supported them during this difficult time, helping to reduce loneliness throughout social isolation.”

Cheryl Flavell, Placemaking and Partnership Manager at Orbit, added: “The Grow, Cook and CrEATe charity is a great example of a community project who are going above and beyond to deliver vital services during this global pandemic.

“It is fantastic to see how money from our Better Days fund can be spent making a real difference to those who need it most. The online workshops provide the perfect space to engage with those who are most vulnerable throughout social isolation and will prove essential in helping support their mental health and wellbeing needs during this difficult time.”

The Escape Arts team work across the community, bringing people together to reduce isolation and improve mental health and wellbeing for all ages. Their services are needed now more than ever.

To support please visit: www.paypal.me/escapearts. For all enquiries regarding any of Escape Art’s projects, please contact info@escapearts.org.uk.