Nature Seychelles is to team up with UK based drugs and alcohol rehabilitation organisation, Phoenix Futures, in a bid to help ease the social problems facing the Seychelles associated with substance misuse. The Seychelles conservation organisation launched its EU-funded nature therapy programme back in April.
The Greening Livelihoods Project partners with local referral agencies to bring recovering drug and alcohol users to its site at Roche Caiman where they undertake nature base activities, like gardening and conservation, as part of their rehabilitation programme.
The idea of using the outdoors to help recovering addicts re-integrate into society was pioneered over 15 years ago in the UK by Phoenix Futures, when it began its conservation therapy programme. Clients staying at a residential rehabilitation centre run by Phoenix Futures in the north of England were given the chance to spend one day a week carrying out conservation tasks in the local countryside. The programme has proved so successful that it has been replicated at more than a dozen locations up and down the country.
Nature Seychelles is planning to bring the same programme to the Seychelles and last week Jon Hall, the founder of the conservation therapy programme in the UK, was over in the Seychelles to help set the scheme up and to share his knowledge with referral agencies who will be partnering in the scheme.
"It a very simple idea," said Jon, ‘We use the therapeutic potential of nature to help vulnerable people to become more confident and fit better into society." It may sound an unconventional way to address what is rapidly becoming Seychelles’ most urgent social issue, but the results speak for themselves. In the UK people who include nature therapy in their rehabilitation are far more likely to show a full recovery from addiction and to date thousands of people have successfully been through the programme. As well as the intrinsic value of simply being in nature, working outdoors also gives people a sense of achievement and a social bond with those working around them. These factors are all positive features aiding recovery of vulnerable groups.
"We have long known the value of nature in making us feel good," said Nature Seychelles Chief Executive Nirmal Shah, who writes regularly promoting the wellbeing value of the environment. "This work is part of our ongoing Green Health programme where we use nature to improve the mental and physical health of those who take part. We are grateful to Phoenix Futures for sending Jon out here to share his knowledge and help us with this project and we look forward to working with them in the future".
The visit from Phoenix Futures to help kick start the Greening Livelihoods project is only one element of what is hoped will be a fruitful partnership between the two organisations. Further staff exchanges are expected and also additional training for the Nature Seychelles team delivering the project and the partners - Centre Mont Royal, Centre de Acceuill de la Rosiere and the Drug and Alcohol Council. It is hoped that this programme will help bring greater success in this difficult field.
Photo: John talks with partners from Centre de Acceuill de la Rosiere