Gok Wan, known around the world for his fashion flair and facility for offering diplomatic sartorial solutions, is also an ambassador for the Vodafone World of Difference UK programme.
World of Difference is an initiative to get 500 people from around the UK working with a charity on a two-month secondment.
From charities large to small, glossy to down and dirty, London and beyond, Vodafone World of Difference is all about making a positive change.
That, perhaps, is what sparked Gok Wan’s interest in becoming involved; not making a 180-degree overnight change, but measured, in steps and the pace befitting the charity, the project, the need. Not, then, dissimilar to the change he effects on shows such as How To Look Good Naked.
People listen to Gok Wan and, modest to a fault, he says, “The guys at Vodafone asked me to help spread the good word for their charity.”
Vodafone clearly asked the right person.
His involvement saw the scheme come to the attention of thousands around the country, one of whom was Anna Sowter.
Livability Holton Lee had been fortunate to have the very talented Anna on-site as a volunteer in the Ashtree Cottage Garden Project from October 2010 onwards. She was working in her chosen area of horticulture specifically with groups of post-19-year-old adults with profound learning disabilities and people with autism spectrum conditions.
Anna was part of a recent focus group at Livability Holton Lee that identified a number of barriers to participation in activities that provide opportunities to develop social and life skills that enable greater independence.
“Seeing a gap in local provision, I applied for the two-month World of Difference funding,” says Anna.
Only 500 Vodafone World of Difference bursaries were distributed for 2011, and Anna, out of many thousands of applicants and through a combination of dedication, initiative and enterprise, was successful, one of only two in Dorset.
Through World of Difference she coordinates a pilot social and therapeutic horticulture and environ-mental programme – called Growing Futures – at Livability Holton Lee.
“It is said that gardens positively do us good,” notes Anna. “They can benefit us physically, mentally and spiritually. Gardens and the wider outdoor environment, offer silence, solitude, serenity and space.”
Anna says that the need for this space may be from an illness, from work and other demands or from our own minds. The changing seasons can put us back in touch with the cycles of life and the idea of impermanence.
“The opportunity to nurture something that is living, to work with nature and to create seems to engage people deeply and can be greatly restorative.”
Anna suggests that, in a similar way to the arts, working outdoors with nature provides a way to explore who we are and our relationships with the world around us.
“’Growing Futures’ is delivered with an understanding of the benefits that therapeutic horticulture can provide, from becoming more physically active, to raising self-esteem and reducing isolation,” she notes.
Participants can also access accredited qualifications and entry-level awards such as City and Guilds, OCN, NPTC and NVQ1, and further their work experience and progress towards additional training and employment.
All staff at and Service Visitors of Livability Holton Lee are delighted to have Anna on board for her enthusiasm and talents.
The positive change she is making to Livability Holton Lee and lives of people there will, like a well-tended garden, be around for many years to come.