Colm Warren

An initiative by Northern Ireland’s leading organics recycling firm Natural World Products (NWP) which is helping families in the Lisburn area isolating because of COVID-19 to improve their mental health has been described as “a lifeline”.

The company, which converts organic household material into compost, has partnered with local community enterprise Kinder Garden Cooks to provide free gardening materials to children and young people across the borough.

Among hundreds to benefit are 20 households in isolation due to family members being high risk or showing symptoms of the coronavirus.

The families have been gifted free bags of NWP’s New Leaf Compost and seeds from Kinder Garden Cooks enabling them to grow their own food and flowers.

NWP Chief Executive Colm Warren said:

“It is a pleasure to partner with Kinder Garden Cooks in this programme that will make a tremendous contribution to improving the mental health of families living locally.

Kieron Connaghan

“We know that gardening is a fantastic way to get children involved with the outdoors and caring for the natural environment, but it is also proven to significantly help wellbeing.

“That has rarely been as important as at the present time as many of us remain at home to stem the spread of COVID-19 or because we have been asked to isolate.”

The initiative which coincided with Mental Health Awareness Week has helped families across the Lisburn and Castlereagh borough with more than 100 bags of free compost distributed and 280 sunflower kits provided.

Sharon McMaster who runs Kinder Garden Cooks said:

“Throughout the year I work with families and schools across the Lisburn area, getting kids excited about gardening, and showing them the benefits of growing their own produce.

“With schools closed and so many people being forced to stay at home, I know it has been a struggle for many of those that I work with regularly.

“It is a difficult time but with the assistance of Natural World Products, I have been able to continue to provide this voluntary service to families across the Lisburn area and we are now really seeing how gardening can boost mental health and wellbeing. It helps people remain grounded, provides a highly rewarding hobby and by gives a new focus that works to reduce stress.”

Sinead Kavanagh’s 9-year-old son pictured with his seedlings

Among those to receive compost and seeds is Sinead Kavanagh from Ballinderry who described gardening as “a lifeline” as she coped with the difficulties of living in lockdown.

“I became ill with suspected COVID-19 and was sick for over five weeks, during which time I had to self-isolate. It was a very difficult time, with two children and an ill husband who was shielding.

“I am so grateful that during a dark time in the lockdown, I was able to get a delivery of compost and seeds so that I could busy myself and my family, making happy memories, planning for the future harvest.

“It helped my recovery and the plants are still keeping us busy while we continue to live through this strange time in history.”

Kieron Connaghan, also from Ballinderry, said:

“Like everyone else, I found myself stuck at home during lockdown. My mum decided to stay at home before the announcement was made, as she thought I might be more at risk. I was upset because I couldn’t see my mates or go to my bowling club, or my cookery class at SERC.

“I am really pleased with the compost, it’s great as it is good quality and organic. I run my own project from home called Kieron’s Woodworking, Sanding and Varnishing Services. Keeping busy at this and growing has really helped me during this time.”

NWP is headquartered in Dunmurry with additional recycling facilities in Antrim, Keady, Co Armagh, and Drumanakelly, Co Down.

Food and garden waste processed by NWP is converted into high quality organic compost which is then used by councils, agri-growers and the horticultural sector across Northern Ireland and further afield – a clear demonstration of a local circular economy in action.

Customers include Hillsborough Castle and Gardens and Royal Portrush Golf Club which used NWP compost to prepare the Dunluce course for the Open Championship.