Thriving at Abbotsford

16th August 2023

Volunteers, staff and local people recently marked the end of the THRIVE community engagement project at Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, near Melrose.

The THRIVE project aimed to support adults living in the Eildon area with their mental health and wellbeing. Participants in the project, Abbotsford staff and volunteers, members of the board of trustees of the charity and staff from Scottish Borders Council came together to reflect on the success of the project and to enjoy afternoon tea.

The THRIVE project was first set up at Abbotsford as a short pilot project in 2021 to support local people who had been affected by the pandemic, focussing on wellbeing, employability and improved mental health. The project was developed and delivered in partnership with Scottish Borders Council’s Local Area Co-ordination team (LAC). The LAC team support adults who have acknowledged mental health challenges that are affecting their quality of life to reduce loneliness and isolation, increase their independence and improve confidence.

Following the success of the pilot project, the Abbotsford Trust secured further funding through Scottish Borders Council’s Eildon Neighbourhood Support Fund in 2022 to run a second series of sessions from January-June 2023.

Working in small groups, participants took part in a range of practical activities over the course of seven weeks. Participants gained an insight into each work area and hands-on experience through a range of taster activities, including practical activities in the gardens and estate, working front-of-house in the visitor centre and exploring ‘behind the scenes’ activities such as digital marketing and visitor interpretation.The Abbotsford Trust has now supported 21 local people to take part in the project to support their improved mental health.

The THRIVE project was led by Mary Kenny, Heritage Engagement Officer at the Abbotsford Trust, with support from the Local Area Co-ordination team, Abbotsford staff and a small group of Abbotsford volunteers who assisted with the project by acting as mentors.

Project leader Mary Kenny said: “It has been a pleasure to work with all the participants both on the pilot project and the current stage of the THRIVE project - to have the privilege of seeing and hearing first hand that the individuals involved have felt a positive impact. We all deserve to have good mental health, and I am proud to work in an organisation which supports taking positive and practical action with that aim in mind. I hope we can continue this valuable work in the future.”

Reflecting on their experience of THRIVE, participants applauded the project and everyone who was asked said they would recommend it to others. Comments included: “This has been a really inspirational and insightful experience; Abbotsford has had so much to offer for me on this course.”
“It was a joy to come every week.”
“It was above and beyond what I could have imagined.”
“A comfortable environment, without feeling in any way that I was getting stigmatised.”

Councillor Tom Weatherston, Executive Member for Social Work and Community Enhancement said: “The partnership between the Abbotsford Trust and our Local Area Co-ordination Team on the Thrive project has delivered an exciting opportunity to those who have or have had mental health issues which have impacted on their lives and left them feeling socially isolated.

“Overall, the feedback received from participants has been very positive with Thrive offering them experiences which many felt they would never have had otherwise. As well as gaining insight into what is involved in being a volunteer at Abbotsford, they have developed a range of other transferable skills. Some are continuing to volunteer at Abbotsford while others have gained the confidence to look at taking on volunteering roles in the wider local community. Of particular benefit have been the friendships and connections that have developed through a shared interest in the project, an outcome that has been invaluable in helping participants to feel less isolated.”

The Abbotsford Trust is currently fundraising to continue its valuable work with the THRIVE project and other local community engagement projects. Find out more and donate.