Abbotsford’s THRIVE pilot project was created to focus on wellbeing, employability and improved mental health, to support local adults who may have experienced long-term and enduring mental health issues, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

‘This has been a really inspirational and insightful experience; Abbotsford has had so much to offer for me on this course’.

The THRIVE project was developed and led by Mary Kenny, Heritage Engagement Officer, working in partnership with the Local Area Co-ordination (LAC) – Mental Health team at Scottish Borders Council

This innovative pilot project was geared towards informing, empowering, and supporting people living within our local community with acknowledged mental health needs, whilst realising the potential of Abbotsford’s natural and built heritage as a focus for meaningful wellbeing and employability-focused activity.  

The pilot project ran from November 2021 – July 2022, with generous support from the Scottish Borders Council Build Back a Better Borders Recovery Fund and the Clark Woodlands Trust.

 'Informative and practical examples of the job. Good discussion of the various roles. Resources given for contemplation uplifting'.

Rather than simply using Abbotsford as a beautiful backdrop for general therapeutic activity, the THRIVE project looked to actively engage participants with different work areas and the people who contribute to the functioning of a busy heritage attraction. We aimed to give participants an insight into the role of voluntary support and employment in readiness for volunteering or working themselves.  The Heritage Engagement team were supported by the LAC team and Abbotsford staff and assisted by a small team of dedicated volunteers from different areas of the organisation.

THRIVE involved group activities that took place each week at Abbotsford in 7-week blocks, with three places available per block. The group focused on a different work area within Abbotsford each week, giving participants an insight into each work area and hands-on experience through a range of taster activities. These activities included hands-on practical activities in the gardens and estate, front-of-house activities in the historic house and visitor centre, ‘behind the scenes’ activities such as digital marketing and visitor interpretation, woven throughout with threads of creativity, storytelling, and mindfulness.

'Great. Happy, confident – would do this more. Proud.'

The THRIVE pilot project gave participants the opportunity to improve their physical and mental health and develop life skills, for example: communication skills and timekeeping; building structure and focus into their week; gaining an insight into their own local heritage and jobs in the tourism sector; and gaining experience of short-term volunteering in preparation for a longer-term volunteering opportunity at Abbotsford or elsewhere.

‘The man who created this wonderful place experienced his own mental health problems - his ‘mulligrubs’. Abbotsford has so much to offer locally, the THRIVE project is designed to offer participants perspective, inspiration, and a little experience of what it takes to keep such a place going, while reflecting on where their own journey may lead’

Mary Kenny, Heritage Engagement Officer

We are delighted that the THRIVE pilot project was such a success and was well received by our local participants, our project partner, Abbotsford Trust staff and volunteers. Throughout the programme, we have gathered regular feedback from our participants, from their hopes and aspirations at the outset to the cumulative impact of the experience at the end of the project and then further down the line one month after finishing. Their feedback demonstrates the immense value our participants have derived from the experience and how this is contributing to improved mental health and wellbeing.  When asked, 100% participants said they would recommend THRIVE.

'I already have'

'I just want to say thank you for all you done that I really enjoyed it. It was a good feeling to do something different that I have not experienced before. I feel that it has helped me with my confidence which is a big thing to me. Thank you'.

The THRIVE pilot project was generously funded by:

Build Back a Better Borders Recovery Fund


The Clark Woodlands Trust