Cynon Valley Organic Adventures: “Spending so much time in such a positive, peaceful environment where my skills are not only valued but needed has changed my life”
On Environment and Conservation day in Volunteers Week we are delighted to feature a wonderful group from the Abercynon area, Cynon Valley Organic Adventures, and its founder Janis Werrett.
“We set up CVOA in 2018 order to help people improve wellbeing and build resilience through interaction with nature. The gap that we identified at the time was that there seemed to be very little opportunity to do this – people were relying on medication to treat symptoms rather than focusing on lifestyle change in order to prevent and strengthen immune systems. “We have a lease on an area of land on the outskirts of Abercynon and have ten full time volunteers at present.“
“Our purpose is to create a peaceful environment run and eventually owned by the community where people will learn how to live in harmony with the environment and recognise the personal benefits of this.”
Janis goes on to describe the importance of some of her key volunteers on the project:
“He was just 16 at the time and my first volunteer at the garden. His mother told me that he had Autism. He turned up and week after week he would quietly come into the shed to put on his wellies and off he would go, working so hard from the minute he got in to the time he left. Nothing is too much trouble for him, he will have a go at anything and nothing ever phases him. He is so pleasant and polite and well mannered and achieves everything he sets his mind to. Although he went on to start college and enrolled in driving lessons he is still with me to this day and hopefully will be for a long time to come. We are all so fond and protective of him and he’s an inspiration to us! The garden wouldn’t be what it is today without his contribution and I look forward to watching him grow and achieving all his dreams”
`“Last year a gentleman was referred to us. He had lost his ability to do a job he had done his whole life and was really upset. He didn’t think he would stay with us but he would do a few days. Well this man changed everything! The other volunteers warmed to him and began coming more often and he slowly became the glue that held us all together. A year on he is a qualified teacher and runs a community support group that has raised around £40,000. I wouldn’t change him for the world.”
“About a year and a half ago a gentleman was referred with severe physical issues due to an accident in his past. He told me that he didn’t like people, or talking but he came in now and then and did a bit of gardening. Gradually our grumpy gardener grew to love us as much as we love him and he pretty much runs the site with his equally grumpy sidekick! He has gone on to achieve his level 3 in garden design amongst other qualifications and helped to create Green Valley Wellbeing Group which has gone on to bring in tens of thousands for the local community.”
“During my first few weeks at the garden this young man called in. I was knee deep in the pond whilst chatting and he told me his only skills were in computers. As he was saying that he couldn’t help but potch about, weeding the pond and clearing the debris. Within weeks he had pulled out all of the old Strimmers, lawnmowers that had not been touched in 5 years and he had them up and running again. He brought his bestie to join him and they are both very much at the heart of the garden today. He has been through a couple of challenging times whilst at the garden which I know have hit him hard but despite the challenges he faces he never gives up, always there with such a pleasant disposition and a kind word for everybody. He has taught me that you cannot put anybody in a category because in the right environment, with the right support people can surpass all expectations. I truly appreciate his efforts come rain, shine, floods, year after year, our little ray of sunshine he is”.
Janis explains some key elements in Cynon Valley Organic Adventures’ work supporting volunteers:
“What tends to work for us is that we do not try to change people. We value and accept people as they are and this gives them the space and the support to gradually make the changes they wish for themselves.”
“The challenges have been that we were always dependant on weather, it takes real commitment to brave the elements but hopefully our new garden shed cafe will counteract this.”
“We have a strong engagement and relationship with the community. They know that we will do whatever we can to support them when they are in need and they are always there supporting us in all that we do. The Covid 19 pandemic in particular really brought this connection to the surface. I have learned that without labels an individual can achieve anything they wish with the right support and environment.”
Cynon Valley Organic Adventures have had support from a number of organisations over the past few years:
“Interlink, Coalfields Regeneration, Social Farms and Gardens, Cynon Vale Medical Practice, Unltd and Clas Cymru have all been amazing. They are there with practical support when needed, as director I have been able to confide in them when I personally needed support and they have engaged with our training and brought other activities and opportunities to us. They had faith in us and that enabled us to grow and become sustainable. Heritage Fund, Awards for All, RCTCBC, Lush, Tesco-all of these funding streams were easy to use. I normally find out about grants from Interlink emails.”
“The funding has enabled us to develop practical support for the community, the cafe, the foodbank, the community training programmes and volunteer opportunities-we wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the funders mentioned. We would not even have been able to cover the rent so it’s been priceless.”
Cynon Valley Organic Adventures also have an exciting new opportunity and are looking to recruit a volunteer Trainee Tutor:
“As its National Volunteers Week and we have been given funding by the Volunteer Emergency Fund to deliver various programmes of learning I would like to give somebody the opportunity to volunteer with us in the role of Trainee Tutor. Working alongside myself and other tutors you will help to deliver training to people aged 14 + learning how to write courses, complete the college admin, eventually gaining your Level 3 in Education and Training.”
“This is a life changing opportunity, if you would like to apply please message Cynon Valley Organic Adventures. We won’t be choosing the most confident, or the most qualified, we will be looking for someone who wants to overcome challenges and can open their heart to help others grow.”
Finally Janis provides a moving quotation from one of her volunteers.
“When I came to CVOA I felt hopeless. I had been seeking help for years but it had never amounted to anything. Nobody was interested in me. After almost 2 years at CVOA I realise that it must have been difficult to help me, I didn’t know what I needed and was reluctant to help myself. Spending so much time in such a positive, peaceful environment where my skills are not only valued but needed has changed my life. It’s helped me to build relationships with others, to see the good in myself and others and that my mental strength outweighs my physical limitations. I look forward to each day now”.
In Volunteers Week Interlink RCT would like to congratulate Janis and her team of volunteers on the amazing and inspiring work they are carrying out. We salute you all!
Check out Janis Werrett’s video here
For more information on Cynon Valley Organic Adventures please visit their website here: https://cynonvalleyorganicadventures.co.uk/