Service veterans have created an oasis of peace in a hospital garden after transforming outdoor areas at the Ablett Psychiatric Unit at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan.

Thanks to a £520 donation from Bangor-based construction firm Watkin Jones, new garden furniture is being installed to enable those being treated at the unit to relax outdoors and find some moments of calm.

Stephen McCabe, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board divisional health and safety lead and head of the Ablett Unit garden project team, thanked the Change Step volunteers for their hard work sprucing up the garden, renovating garden furniture and planting flowers and shrubs.

“The Change Step volunteers have done an amazing job here at the Ablett Unit and at the Hergest Unit at Ysbyty Gwynedd,” Steve said.

“They are also now starting work at the Bryn y Neuadd Secure Unit at Llanfairfechan, with BCUHB contributing towards the charity’s expenses.”

Work at the Ablett Unit began in the spring of last year and the transformation is wonderful.

“I’d also like to thank Watkin Jones Construction for its donation of £520 from its community fund,” Steve added.  “The money will be put to good use as we intend to purchase additional garden furniture which will mean more people can access the new garden area.”

Ablett Unit modern matron Tracey Norcross says she is thrilled with the newly transformed garden area and has praised the hard work of the Change Step volunteers.

“It looks good and is an asset to the unit,  and also provides a therapeutic environment for patients,” she said.  “It’s a useable space that is somewhere quiet, where you can gather your thoughts.

“We are so grateful for all the hard work of the Change Step volunteers and so grateful companies such as Watkin Jones are prepared to invest in the Ablett Unit to the benefit of patients and their families.”

Change Step, which is delivered by forces veterans and funded from banking fines, is for former servicemen and women who need support with mental health, substance misuse, criminal justice and other issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Work at hospitals across North Wales is being carried out as part of the Change Step Veterans’ Gardening project, funded by the Royal British Legion.

Change Step volunteer Adam Owen, 30, of Llandudno Junction, says Change Step helped him massively after he left the Welsh Guards.

“I’ve been volunteering for three years and Change Step has helped me get to where I am today,” Adam said. “I served in Bosnia and struggled when I returned to civilian life.

“I have been put through training courses such as first aid and inter personal skills and I’m down for another three courses in the next few months. I’m currently unemployed but it’s all about helping me get back into work.

“The good thing with Change Step is you are mentored by other ex-servicemen and women who know what it’s like and what you have been through. That’s important.”

Heather Evans, 30, of Connah’s Quay began volunteering with Change Step in February 2015.

“I didn’t actually serve in the services as I couldn’t get in on medical grounds. I really wanted to be a driver,” she said.
“I’ve really enjoyed working on the garden at the Ablett Unit. It’s amazing to see what it is like now compared to what it looked like when we started.
“I just enjoy being around former military personnel and hearing their stories. I enjoy the camaraderie.
“I have a real sense of achievement when I look at what we have done at the Ablett Unit. The garden area is fantastic and the new seating and garden furniture will really finish it off.”

Linzi Jones, Change Step fundraising manager, said she was thrilled at what had been achieved by volunteers with the support of Watkin Jones and mental health development and training agency Unllais.

“Change Step offers a mentoring service for military veterans, and our gardening service is delivered in partnership with the Royal British Legion,” she said.
“There are a variety of issues ex-servicemen and women face which civilians can find difficult to understand. But because our mentoring is veteran-to-veteran it means the trust is there from the outset.
“It’s about helping our veterans get the support they need, and because the mentoring is veteran to veteran it really makes a difference.”


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