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Trust Links - Together! Growing, Choosing, Caring.


Trust Links: Supporting People, Building Communities


Have you seen the Trust Links Community Garden on the corner of Prittlewell Chase and Fairfax Drive yet?(Contact details shown at the bottom of the page) Why not pay this wonderful local project a visit, and perhaps purchase some plants and organic produce while you are there. And if you are as enthralled as we are by the whole concept of Trust Links and the work this local charity is doing you will no doubt become a regular visitor, watching with amazement as their various projects just continue to grow and grow…………….

And on Saturday 17th March 2013 the brand new Growing Together Shoeburyness community garden opened its gates for the first time to the public. The Garden is at a one acre site that used to be allotment land but has been disused for at least 15 years.

Trust Links have been awarded funding from the Big Lottery to develop the site into a community garden, primarily for adults with mental health problems and young people disengaged from education.

Watch the video showing details of the site and the opening ceremony here:-



Trust Links Community GardenTrust Links aim is to make a long lasting difference and bring positive change for people who are affected by mental ill health within Southend and the local area.

It seems fitting that the founding project ‘Growing Together’, the highly respected and much talked about community garden, was developed on a piece of land that was once a scrap heap. The project now helps people, who at one time may have felt they played no worthwhile part in society, to gain help, guidance and qualifications so they can build confidence and acquire skills. Remarkable success has been had in helping people gain independence, better health and new opportunities, including employment.

 The History ........................................................ Click here

Trust Links was the vision of a local lady Cheryl Higgins, who saw there was a gap in the mental health services provision and determined to fine a way of meeting the needs of those vulnerable people in the Southend and surrounding districts who needed help, but had no-where to go to find it. Trust Links was founded in September 1999, incorporated as a registered charity in 2002 and with a small team of professionals and a host of volunteers, has gone from strength to strength.

Why “Mental Health”?

One in three of us experience mental health difficulties at some time in our life;
Nearly one in six of us experience a serious disabling depression;
People experiencing problems such as stress and depression are drawn from
every section of society and every age group.

Only one in four of those suffering are receiving any treatment for their condition, and yet the total cost of these health problems in our community, taking into account sickness leave from work and incapacity benefits paid to long-term sufferers, is the equivalent of 2% of the Gross Domestic Product. We all, therefore, have a real interest in being able to help people back to employment..

The Community GardenTrust Links work to bring about:

  • improvement of mental health and promotion of mental wellbeing
  • rehabilitation of those experiencing and affected by mental ill health
  • provision of training opportunities and support to employment
  • provision of practical and emotional support
  • breaking down the barriers of misunderstanding and stigma which surround mental health to build a happier, safer, more understanding, healthier community.

To date we have successfully helped over 1000 people achieve better mental health and improved personal circumstances.

Vegetables being grown at Trust LinksTrust Links has achieved this by providing a number of services around a holistic model. Central to our approach is giving one-to-one support within a community environment and the support of our trained Mental Health Nurse who provides clinical guidance to ensure quality, support and assistance to beneficiaries and staff.

Supporting adults and young peopleGrowing Together which supports adults and young people through its community therapeutic gardens, enabling them to manage their own health and regain control of their lives.

  • Growing Together Westcliff
    Our therapeutic community garden project supports the wellbeing, recover and employment opportunities of people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and other disadvantages. Members and volunteers work together in the award winning garden, which includes vegetable plot, wildlife area, herbaceous border and sensory garden.
  • Growing Together Shoeburyness
    Children working at Growing Together ShoeburynessWorking at Growing Together ShoeburynessLaunched in 2013 and funded by the Big Lottery Fund, the project is transforming a disused one acre allotment site on Elm Road into a beautiful community resource. The garden will include a log cabin, wildlife pond and raised vegetable beds. We aim to provide a caring structured environment where people with mental health problems can participate in activities to build confidence and skills.

Southend Communities Partnership
We work in close partnership with other local organisations to develop strong and resilient communities. We run community events, provide volunteering opportunities and training, advocacy, skills development and support to improve the quality of life for people locally.

St Laurence Orchard
We manage an historic orchard near Southend Airport on behalf of Southend Council. This site is very tranquil and is able to offer a quiet and peaceful environment and an abundant harvest of traditional apples, pears and plums.

Training and Environmental Education
Our Schools Programmes at Westcliff and Shoeburyness provide vocational activities for children disengaged from mainstream education. Our straw-bale building at Growing Together Westcliff has photovoltaic and solar hot water panels. The garden and sales area is open 9 am to 4 pm weekdays, selling plants, organically grown fruit and veg and local honey. We provide vocational training and can hire out our meeting rooms.

Growing Onwards our training opportunities, helping people build their confidence self esteem and employability.

Breakthrough, a service for carers supporting people with mental ill health who are often in need of support and help themselves.

Trust Links pioneers a successful community approach that helps people manage and recover from mental ill health, providing training and work based experience to increase employability and life opportunities, as well as providing support and mentoring.

We work to actively engage people in activities which help them restructure their lives and manage their health, social and educational issues. We can provide, for a minimum cost in comparison with other services, a way of helping people turn their lives around and take control of their future.

 About Growing Together ........................................................ Click here

The Growing Together project benefits people with mental ill health and associated learning difficulties living in Southend through the Community Therapeutic Gardens. As many a 1 in 6 people suffer some form of mental ill health during their lives yet the statuary services provide little support until a crisis point is reached. Research carried out at Loughborough University showed that our type of approach is a practical and effective way of helping people with mental ill health become healthier, manage their own health and develop skills that will help them lead more fulfilling and healthier lives as well as improving their employability and social skills. Their research identified a number of issues around mental ill health:

  • Social and self-isolation, often in the early stages of mental illness
  • Low self-esteem and confidence preventing progression
  • Poor physical and mental health which act in a cyclical manner to reinforce each other
  • A lack of accessible restorative, nurturing and supportive environments to provide a preventative and rehabilitative approach to mental health;
  • Low employment and educational opportunities for people with poor mental health also acting in a cyclical manner to reinforce illness and low prospects;
  • A lack of meaningful structured activity with support to allow people with poor mental health to participate within volunteering and contributing to the community;
  • Social stigma and misunderstanding of mental health by the general public due to poor media coverage, lack of community based projects and community engagement opportunities.

Through Growing Together we provide a mutually supportive caring environment where people form friendships and gain experience and insights into their own situations.

Trust Links OrchardThe activities in the garden are used to enable people to bring structure to their lives, develop social skills and build their self confidence and self esteem. Growing Together provides training opportunities in sales of plants, landscaping, organic plant and vegetable growing, and work experience in its gardens and orchard. The Gardens which have won awards in Anglia in Bloom and Southend in Bloom are open to the public as a haven to target stress, anxiety and depression.

The garden provides learning opportunities in conjunction with Growing Onwards which provides NVQs in horticulture, levels 1 and 2, personal development and life planning and works, with those who are ready, on cv's, job search and help into employment. We also run our own small social enterprise that gives short term employment opportunities to some clients.

To help develop and enhance our services we have in 2008 completed the self build of a centre, at the garden, which will provide a training area and a small café. This will help us to provide a wider range of training and work experience. By opening the café to the public we will increase the number of members of the general public who visit us, providing greater social interaction and helping to break down barriers of misunderstanding and social stigma. Tomatoe plants at Trust Links

Each year we work with 140+ volunteer beneficiaries as well as children from local schools and other community groups. We take referrals from many sources including local GP’s, Job Centre +and Social Services but also take self referrals knowing that many people with mental ill health are reluctant to use the statuary services.

We are well recognised locally for providing a vital service for some of those most in need in our society and get support from Southend Council, Connexions, local PCT, Job Centre +. Essex Police and Social Services both use Growing Together as one of their placements for trainees to get experience of community projects.

Some comments that beneficiaries have shared with us are:

My life has now completely changed. Instead of staying in bed all day feeling sorry for myself, I come here. I have been awarded a medal and certificate which I hang up in my room.”

“I no longer need a psychiatrist. I feel well since coming here and finding friends and compassion. I enjoy my part in building the garden. I have never been on a team like this before. I am now training to go back to work.”

“This is the only work placement project I’ve done where I want to keep coming to.”

 About Carers’ Breakthrough – for Carers........................... Click here

We provide support to carers of those experiencing mental health difficulties through counselling, listening support, advocacy, advice, relaxation and yoga classes, book group and support groups including OCD support.

Caring for those experiencing mental health problems is often a lonely path, and yet at least one third of all families today are affected by these problems, even if only for a short period. If the main wage earner frequently has bouts of stress-related absenteeism from work this is still a mental health problem. Local GPs estimate that in their average working day at least half their consultation time is mental health related, and yet there is frequently no real support for these patients within the conventional mental health services. The sheer physical, mental and financial demands may leave carers feeling isolated and stressed, often to the point of affecting their own health. Having a support group such as Trust Links can make all the difference.

 How does Trust Links Help..................................................... Click here

At the core of Trust Links is the community garden. This alone, as you will see for yourself when you visit, provides a haven for those in distress. It also provides a market garden supplying fresh produce and this, together with their orchard near Southend Airport, provides opportunities for genuine training in horticulture and sales. The site has its own kitchen to provide refreshments throughout the day, and this also allows for training opportunities in health and hygiene and first aid. Currently, Trust Links has 22 people taking NVQs.

Trust Links offers the services of a qualified Mental Health Nurse, a qualified Counsellor, and several Complementary Therapists. This allows for one-to-one listening and support, or maybe just an Indian Head Massage to alleviate stress!

Sometimes, just having someone else to talk to who is in a similar situation can reduce the loneliness, but there are also several other group activities such as an Arts programme.

And when people are feeling well and confident again, Trust Links will provide ongoing support and assistance in finding employment, educational and volunteer opportunities.

The Cheryl CentreIn September 2008 Trust Links opened their new centre, a timber frame and straw bale building. Why straw bale? Because these structures are 75% cheaper to build, and are extremely energy efficient. Tests have proved that straw-bale walls, even when unrendered, are less of a fire risk than timber walls. The new construction will house a training centre, Founder Cheryl Higgins and Mayor of Southend Gwen Horrigan.and also a café and small retail outlet open to the public, selling lots of delicious vegetarian and organic produce. This will greatly increase training opportunities and, hopefully, also provide another means of income.

The Centre (aptly named the Cheryl Centre) was officially opened by Trust Links Founder Cheryl Higgins and Mayor of Southend Gwen Horrigan.

The Growing Together project also manages an historic orchard in Rochford.

Veg from Trust LinksHow you can help.
♦ Visit the site and purchase herbs, plant and organic vegetables.
♦ Volunteer your services.
♦ Rent the gardens for a Corporate Event
♦ Organise a fund raising event
♦ Donations and Bequests are always gratefully received!

Trust Links is fast outgrowing its current site and additional land needs to be acquired. This will enable increased plant and vegetable production so that the sales aspects can be expanded upon, including perhaps an Organic Box Scheme.

Opening times:
Opening hours of gardens and sales are Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm.
Please come and say hello and support us by making a purchase!

Forthcoming Events:

  • Wednesday 9th July 2014 : 2pm to 4pm Afternoon tea and Open Gardens Westcliff
    (tickets from Julie Cushion of Southend Community Fund)
  • Saturday 11th October 2014 : 11am to 3pm Apple Day (at St Laurence Orchard
  • Wednesday 22nd October 2014 : Trust Links AGM 2.30pm Westcliff
  • Saturday 29th November 2014 : 11am to 2pm Christmas Open Day Westcliff
  • Community Dig Days at Elm Road Shoebury site :
        Sat 26th July 1-3.30pm
        Sat 6th Sept 1-3.30pm
  • Sat 5th July 2014 : Shoebury Fair (Growing Together Shoeburyness a beneficiary this year)

At Trust Links we work together to improve mental health and wellbeing and promote wellness and sustainable living.
Trust Links is a local charity that aims to support people and build communities. Established in 2000, we are funded from a range of sources and welcome donations and partnership opportunities.

Contact Trust Links:
Trust Links
Growing Together Westcliff
47 Fairfax Drive
Essex SS0 9AG

Telephone 01702 213134
Company Limited by Guarantee 4351216
Registered Charity No. 1092324

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