OTR (Off the Record Bristol) is a mental health social movement by and for young people in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. Nature Works is the name of one of OTR's projects, with a focus on improving wellbeing via nature and horticulture - helping young people connect to people, place and planet. Spending time in beautiful, tranquil places is in itself very calming and stress-reducing. Alongside this, trying new things, gaining new skills and learning ways to relax in the outdoors can be hugely uplifting and provide an invaluable opportunity to improve confidence, self- esteem and resilience.

The situation with the Coronavirus has disrupted all OTR projects and we have worked tirelessly to reimagine and reformat our sessions to accommodate young people in digital spaces. However, with Nature Works, we thought it was essential to retain our message that connecting to nature, especially in trying times, is essential for our wellbeing. 

We are creating and delivering seed kits of flowers and vegetables to young people in Bristol throughout the lockdown period to provide a unique item with a therapeutic benefit that can be nurtured and enjoyed over this difficult time. In the absence of our physical sessions, this initiative allows us to continue reaching young people and is a tangible way to support their wellbeing and provide a sense of purpose and enjoyment at a time where resources to support mental health are limited and often accessed via electronic means.

The idea to create and deliver free vegetable and flower growing starter kits to the doorsteps of young people allows them to watch, nurture and enjoy the process of growing something in the coming weeks. Our kits provide a journey of growth and care for young people and consist of seed compost, a tray for seedlings, flower and veg varieties and instructions and are delivered alongside some additional mental health resources and literature from OTR, including self-care tips and illustrated guides around managing feelings and monitoring screen time and sleep hygiene.

Nature Works

At a time where we cannot reach young people in-person, this delivery initiative allows us to continue providing materials and resources to young people to prevent feelings of meaninglessness, boredom, isolation and sadness in what is proving to be a testing and isolating time. We are also harnessing a feeling of community as these kits can be enjoyed between families and there will be online space for the recipients to share photos together as the seeds grow.

Having opened up a sign-up form for these kits online (providing a choice of window, small garden or large garden kits), OTR received over 600 applications overnight and the requests now total over 1,000. We are excited to have delivered the first 200 kits, and now we are looking for volunteers to help deliver the remaining kits!

Our team is following the highest standards of hygiene, practicing social distancing at all times and leaving the kits on the doorstep of the young person's address to avoid contact. The volunteers are delivering via bicycle (with trailer), so this is also a great way to get exercise in, although in some cases we can deliver by car too.

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