ABF The Soldiers’ Charity have awarded Dig In North West a grant of £12,000 to initiate their new Muster Point programme, which aims to improve access to services for soldiers, veterans and reservists in central Lancashire…

Dig In North West was formed in 2012 by Donna Rowe-Green, a Horticultural Therapist and the wife of a veteran. Building on her own experiences, Donna wanted to take the idea of a Therapeutic Garden for military veterans and bring it home to Lancashire.

Since then, Dig In has grown from a small horticultural therapy project to a multi-activity service which employs four Army veterans. Based in a private walled garden in Preston, their broad programme of gardening, carpentry, photography and stone carving aims to bring people together and provide a distraction from the symptoms of physical and mental ill-health.

This grant will go towards their Muster Point project, a pilot scheme which aims to extend Dig In’s support to others within the military community. The project’s aims are two-fold; supporting new referrals to attend the centre and creating a new onsite facility for community-based counsellors working with soldiers and veterans.

Over the past year, Dig In’s staff have noticed a mounting number of referrals who never attend the service. These individuals are often coming to the end of their counselling sessions with other services and find the impending transfer overwhelming. As part of the new programme, Dig In staff – who are themselves veterans – will act as buddies to people making the transition, bridging the gap and supporting them to integrate.

Dig In also plans to create a specialised room onsite for appointments with external counsellors. As the room will be based within the Dig In garden, this will provide the ideal opportunity for those attending counselling sessions to become familiar with the charity’s location, team and general ethos, making the transfer to Dig In easier should the need arise.

Donna Rowe-Green, Managing Director at Dig-In North West, says: “I set Dig In up six years ago, and the growth we have seen on-site has been beyond my expectations. One of the challenges we face though is making sure that those that would benefit from our service are not only aware of it, but also supported to make that first tentative step through the gate.

“With the help of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, we will be able to dedicate some of our resources to ensuring everyone has someone to meet up with them before they even arrive at Dig In for the first time. Once that first step has been made, the changes in each individual are palpable. We are very grateful to all of our financial supporters who show such faith in us as a small, local charity.”

Brigadier (Ret’d) Robin Bacon, Chief of Staff at The Soldiers’ Charity, adds: “It’s wonderful to see how Dig In North West’s services are evolving to meet the needs of the military community in Lancashire. For six years, the Dig In garden has served as a safe haven for Armed Service personnel to relax, develop friendships and learn practical skills. Now, their Muster Point project will ensure they can reach more people than ever before.”