It’s widely reported that loneliness can negatively impact a person’s mental health and wellbeing. The recent pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have further contributed to this, with many people being forced into social isolation. 

Alan Berry, a Visiting Officer at Daar Lodge, Kircudbright, has met many people struggling to cope with feelings of loneliness over the course of his career. But he’s not the only one. Kelly Clark, a Temporary Accommodation Worker in Dumfries, also knows all too well the impact loneliness and isolation has had on her local community. 

Despite having never worked together before, Alan and Kelly shared an ambition: to create a safe space for communities to come together, make connections, and take part in activities that would improve their mental health.  

Both Alan and Kelly applied for the Dumfries and Galloway HSCP Intrapreneurship Programme to help make their ambitions a reality. The Investment Team, who were responsible for shortlisting applications and allocating funding, saw the potential in their ideas and encouraged them to work together to achieve their common goal. 

‘When I came into this, I thought it was a competition, and I wasn’t sure about the other teams. As we’ve gotten to know each other and our ideas, we’ve become a community. As a former member of the Services, this means a lot. I haven’t felt this way in years and years.’- Alan Berry, Visiting Officer at Daar Lodge 

After the initial Storytelling workshops, Alan and Kelly really started to connect. They supported each other through feedback and encouragement, as they were both nervous when it came to public speaking. During the Prototyping workshop, they built a physical model of their idea, taking feedback and suggestions from the group as well as their service-users. This helped them cement their vision and ensure it was rooted in the needs of those they serve. 

On Investment Day, Alan pitched for investment with Kelly’s support. Together, they secured a £12k investment to help make their idea a reality. 

Now, Alan and Kelly are busy laying the foundations for an ‘Inclusion Garden’: a safe space for intergenerational communities to connect with nature, learn new and transferrable skills, grow their own produce, cook together, and build friendships. Alan has already set up a committee with residents at Daar Lodge to design and plan the space, with ambitions to open the garden in time for the King’s Coronation in May. Future ambitions include scaling and replicating the garden model across other Wheatley plots and making these sustainable through routes to enterprise.  

Both Alan and Kelly are also busy making connections with local organisations including Men’s Shed, the Veteran’s Group, and Access Art Project to increase the impact their service has.