HRH Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, visited the community-led Quarr Abbey gardening project last Friday (14th October), to see the work of the self-supporting, community-led scheme that benefits local residents with learning difficulties and other support needs.
During his visit, Prince Edward met and spoke with some of the volunteers who work on the project and his visit was part of a number of engagements across the Island, which included other Quarr-based initiatives, such a new paraplegic facility, and opening the Isle of Wight Literary Festival.
Launched in 2011 and run by Southern Housing Group in partnership with Quarr Abbey and No Barriers (an Isle of Wight Council-led scheme that provides training and support to people with disabilities or other barriers to employment), the Quarr Abbey gardening project is open to anyone from across the Island. Those who volunteer on the project plant, grow and sell their own produce, and related goods they make, in the local abbey shop.
The project offers a way for local residents to gain new skills in a social setting that benefits the community. For some volunteers, it provides them with a work opportunity for the first time, giving them the confidence and skills they’ve needed to change their lives for the better.
Naomi Keyte, Head of Sheltered and Care Services for Southern Housing Group, said:
“The Quarr Abbey project is a unique and engaging initiative that empowers vulnerable people who live on the Island. It has helped around 50 people gain new skills and abilities that benefit them – and the community around them. His Royal Highness’ visit highlights the value of small-scale, community-led projects like this, and recognises those who have contributed to its success. Working with Quarr Abbey and No Barriers has been invaluable, and I’m grateful to them for helping us support vulnerable people in this way.”
One resident who the project has helped is Michael, a Southern Housing Group customer who has volunteered for the Quarr Abbey gardening project for the past two years.
“Volunteering has made me feel wanted and accepted and has given me a purpose to get up and go out. I’ve made so many new friends and it has really opened up my social life. I feel as if my life has been transformed by volunteering, and I wish I’d discovered it years ago.”