In the Therapy through Nature project, Friends of the Earth Malta has partnered with the Richmond Foundation to engage their clients and support staff in nature therapy activities at the garden of Villa Chelsea, a therapeutic community managed by the Richmond Foundation that provides a residential and day community-based programme and respite care for persons with mental health problems, and supports clients to learn the skills that empower them to live an independent life in the community. Activities will include the creation and upkeep of a community edible garden and pollinator friendly areas. The first half of May saw the kick-off of the project with the first workshop, on garden design and gardening basics, delivered by landscape architect Antoine Gatt, as well as a clean-up of the Villa Chelsea garden, supported by Friends of the Earth Malta staff and volunteers, and a group of MCAST students.
Nature Therapy, also known as ‘green therapy’ or ‘eco therapy’, is gaining the attention of researchers, nature enthusiasts, and people in search of alleviating the symptoms of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Being in nature has long been associated with being mindful and meditative, but only recently has the scientific community researched the mental health benefits of immersion into nature: studies have shown that reconnecting with nature can help lift depression, improve energy, and boost overall well‐being and mental health.
The Therapy through Nature project will see the organization of a number of hands-on workshops for the clients and staff of Villa Chelsea and the wider community, about the basics of vegetable gardening, composting, water use and water saving, organic gardening and permaculture, seed saving and plant propagation, ways to attract pollinators in the garden, and the preparation of fresh, healthy food from a kitchen garden.
The project aims to increase awareness and knowledge about gardening, pollinator-friendly species, and habitat protection and the potential of spending time in gardens and in nature for people’s mental and physical well-being, as well as develop tools and methods for therapy in nature in Malta. The Therapy through Nature project is co-funded through the Environmental Funding Support Scheme for Voluntary Organisations of the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change (MSDEC). Friends of the Earth Malta gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from the European Union.