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Our pilot project ‘Healing Gardens’ has finally started! From this week onwards (former) cancer patients will garden on a weekly basis at Parkhuys, a social support center for cancer patients in Almere. The participants will garden in containers (square foot gardening) from April until October, under supervision of two experienced gardeners.
As gardening is an outdoor activity that requires bending and stretching and gardeners work with fruits and vegetables, it seems a good way to get physical exercise, eat healthily, and take up vitamin D – all important aspects for people who have or are recovering from cancer. Moreover, the hypothesis is that when people like what they do – for most people gardening is more enjoyable than visiting a gym – it will be easier to maintain such healthy behavior. Finally, people may experience social support from the peers with whom they are working, without having to join specific social support groups.
Two years ago the first seeds for this project were planted – last week Ellen Kampman, professor of Human Nutrition, elderman Rene Peeters, Henk Wolfert from AMS institue and Astrid Heijnen from Donkergroen officially opened the project during a festive event. This pilot project is the start of what will hopefully become a bigger project – if we manage to get finance, we aim to start a larger garden (or several gardens) with a larger number of participants.
Although the project in its current form is too small to measure whether gardening really makes people more fit, it will help us gain insights into what would make such a project successful (individual gardens or a communal garden, for example, or the addition of cooking workshops). We also hope to get a better understanding of the extent to which this group activity leads to social support. Moreover, we may find indications for health effects.
Healing Gardens is supported by Flevo Campus and Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS ) institute. Donkergroen sponsored the square foot gardening containers.