Together, Friends of the Earth Malta and the Richmond Foundation, have designed and implemented the Nature Therapy project. Through workshops and activities such as vegetable and herb planting, composting, pollinator friendly flower planting, and building garden furniture from pallets, the project engages the clients and support staff of the community at Villa Chelsea in nature therapy activities in their beautiful garden.
On Saturday 13 January the community opened its doors and their garden to the wider public, to show the fruits of the last 9 months of the project. The mature garden, home to many orange and olive trees, now boasts a self-built compost bin, plots planted with edible vegetables and herbs, flowerbeds to attract bees and other pollinators, a chicken coop home to a happy pair of chickens that provide eggs, as well as some friendly ducks, and a drip irrigation system to optimise water use in the garden.
Over 60 people attended the Open Day to see for themselves how the garden has been transformed and is being used and enjoyed by the community. Minister for the Environment Hon. Dr José Herrera commemorated the project’s success by planting an almond tree in the garden together with the project coordinator from Friends of the Earth Malta, Suzanne Maas, and Francesca Spiteri Maempel, Manager of Villa Chelsea, and her team. He was also given a tour around the garden to learn more about the project together with Ms. Stephania Dimech Sant, CEO of the Richmond Foundation, Martin Galea De Giovanni, Chairperson of Friends of the Earth Malta and Mr. Philip Schembri, Chair of the MESDC Environmental Funding Committee who also attended the Open Day.
The clients and staff of Villa Chelsea held a bake sale where they sold cakes, muffins and cookies, as well as homemade orange marmalade and olives from their own garden. Friends of the Earth Malta organised three workshops for the visitors to discover the different aspects of nature therapy: there was a session on building bee hotels using repurposed wooden boxes and natural materials such as cane, wood, and straw to provide a shelter for solitary bees and other insects, a session on planting vegetables and flowers and the benefits of companion planting, and a nature inspired poetry reading and creative writing session with poet Miriam Calleja. Visitors were able to enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of the garden in the January sunshine, and could enjoy a warming cup of fair-trade coffee or tea and a vegetarian lunch from The Grassy Hopper, all while listening to the peaceful tunes provided by George Attard on his wooden flutes and handpan.
Villa Chelsea is 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. Nature Therapy activities aim to alleviate the symptoms of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Being in nature has long been associated with being mindful and meditative, and recent studies have shown that reconnecting with nature can help lift depression, improve energy, and boost overall well‐being and mental health.
The Nature Therapy project is co-funded through the Environmental Funding Support Scheme for Voluntary Organisations of the Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change (MESDC). Friends of the Earth Malta gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from the European Union.
For more information about the Nature Therapy project, please visit the project website