Outlandish – Eco-volunteering for women

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By Valentina Diaz

 

Psychological research has highlighted the therapeutic benefits of contact with nature.

In ‘Healthy nature healthy people: ‘contact with nature’ as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations’  (Oxford Journal’s Health Promotion International), the psychological response to nature involves feelings of pleasure, sustained attention or interest, ‘relaxed wakefulness’ and diminution of negative emotions, such as anger and anxiety. And that ‘people with access to nearby natural settings have been found to be healthier overall than other individuals.

The longer-term, indirect impacts (of ‘nearby nature’) also include increased levels of satisfaction with one’s home, one’s job and with life in general, the physiological data measured by this study suggests that natural settings elicit a response that includes a component of the parasympathetic nervous system associated with the restoration of physical energy.

Being in nature and working with animals is rewarding and nurturing and should provide a stepping stone into community participation.

In 2013 a generous bequest of $50,000 from the estate of the late Denise Maree Lang to their Women’s Services allowed Good Shepherd to pilot the Outlandish program. When Good Shepherd Youth and Family services unfortunately closed their St Kilda branch Outlandish was adopted by Sacred Heart Mission.

The program runs from the Mission’s Women’s House in St Kilda which provides a safe and supportive environment for women from diverse cultures and backgrounds, who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless.

According to the program organisers the women who access these services come from a range of life experiences, including family violence, poverty, sexual violence, physical and mental illness, problematic drug and alcohol use and isolation. The program supports women who would benefit from increased community participation and provides them with meaningful opportunities through connecting them with people, animals and places.

Women can get involved in activities that promote green attitudes and contribute to making our planet sustainable.

Outlandish helps women to develop in an occupational/vocational capacity and to build upon the skills they already have, often times clients need significant support to overcome their mistrust of people and services. It also helps them to gain confidence and that sense of fulfilment that comes with the act of volunteering and preparing for future progress in this area.

Some of the activities the women take part in are; growing plants and creating income at a local community garden co-operative, re-vegetation activities in public parks for public amenity and enjoyment, community vegetable gardening and resource sharing, caring for animals who may be abused/abandoned/unable to be cared for by primary carers for a period of time; contributing to the care and healing of these animals and marine science research, contributing to our knowledge of our marine ecosystem and our impact on the environment and of human interaction.

The Women’s House also runs Health and Well-being activities on a regular basis, with programs such as the Art Therapy Program- “Creative Connections” which is supported by the City of Port Phillip.

Support workers are available at the Women’s House to provide information and assistance with a range of issues including; accommodation and housing, crisis assistance, family and domestic violence and referral to specialist services such as legal, drug and alcohol and mental health.

For more information on services, donations and how to get involved please contact the Women’s House at Sacred Heart Mission (03) 9536 8464 or email outlandish@sacredheartmission.org

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