Volunteering outdoors set to help Devon’s people and nature to flourish

Volunteering in outdoor activities and environmental tasks is set to play an important role for people recovering from substance misuse in Devon.

A new project, Flourish in Nature, led by EDP Drug & Alcohol Services, will support people who are recovering from drug and alcohol misuse by coaching them to become voluntary outdoor activity leaders. These trained leaders can then go on to help others in their community use physical outdoor activity and learning about Devon’s amazing natural world to address their own health issues.

Sport England’s ‘Opportunity Fund’ announced they would be supporting the three-year project through a £150k grant. The Fund aims to empower people to volunteer in order to tackle the challenges their communities face. Other partners in the successful bid are Active Devon and the Devon Wildlife Trust who will be providing a wide range of expert support around volunteering, physical activity and environmental education.

EDP Drug & Alcohol Services run ‘Flourish cafes’ - social, creative spaces where people both with and without ‘lived experience’ of substance misuse, recovery and mental ill health can come and discover ways to connect, learn, get active, take notice and give back to their community. The cafes can be found across Devon in Exeter, Tiverton, Newton Abbot, Ilfracombe, Exmouth and Barnstaple.

Flourish in Nature is the next step in providing wider opportunities for volunteers to develop their own skills and confidence, and experience improved health and wellbeing. The project will also build into Sport England’s wider aim of exploring how the outdoors and the environment may motivate people to get involved in volunteering and how volunteering can help create new opportunities for people to get active.

Sport England’s Director of Sport, Phil Smith, said:

“When people volunteer in sport and physical activity there is a dual benefit – volunteers help others in their communities get active, as well as benefitting themselves. Volunteering can do wonders for job and career prospects, mental health and making friends.  

“That’s why volunteering sits at the heart of Sport England’s new strategy, Towards an Active Nation. We’re delighted to be helping Flourish in Nature enable more volunteers to be the catalysts for change in their neighbourhood”.

It is well known that recovering from addiction is a long process and filling the void left by addiction can be one of the key hurdles to overcome. With these new opportunities for regular volunteering on offer which enables people to enjoy outdoor spaces, in social settings it is hoped that Devon will be leading the way in its recovery services.

Nik Sutherland, Flourish project lead at EDP Drug & Alcohol Service said:

“We see first-hand every day the enormous power of volunteering to people who are in recovery. Having the expertise of Active Devon to provide mentoring and coaching support to our volunteers and the passion of the Devon Wildlife Trust to inspire we know that this project is going to have a hugely positive impact on our service users”

The Flourish in Nature Project will launch formally in Newton Abbot and the team is seeking its first batch of volunteers to become outdoor volunteers who can then lead others to be active and confident in nature.

“Active Devon is so delighted to be part of this project” said Jason Wood Workforce Programme Manager at Active Devon. “We have worked with EDP on a number of projects and have seen how transformational people’s journeys can be when they are given the right tools to manage and control their own lives. Flourish in Nature has direct links with a number of our other projects that examine how being active in nature benefits the mind and body”.

Flourish in Nature is one of 37 newly announced projects which will be testing various different approaches, with the ultimate aim of growing and diversifying volunteering.

“We know that contact with the natural world can make a huge difference for people’s health and wellbeing. Flourish in Nature gives us the chance to work with volunteers who may never have noticed Devon’s amazing wildlife or benefitted from it. This project will inspire them with knowledge and appreciation of their natural surroundings right here in Devon” said Jasmine Atkinson, Wildlife Communities Officer at Devon Wildlife Trust.

Work carried out by Sport England has shown that specific groups of the population are less likely to volunteer in sport - such as women, disabled people, people from BME groups and people on a low income. This Devon partnership is seeking to show that volunteering is for everyone and can lead to sustained change which impacts positively on many people’s lives.

For more information about Flourish cafes visit www.edp.org.uk/flourish or email flourish@edp.org.uk to register your interest in getting involved.