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2008 Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Largest Corporate Volunteer Day: Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants

Schizophrenia Program’s IRU green space gets facelift

In June the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) conducted an unusual audit -- the garden that is part of CAMH's Schizophrenia Program's Integrated Rehabilitation Unit (IRU). The results: they discovered that by gardening with the clients and staff of the IRU program they were building bridges with their community and providing a green space that promotes wellness and recovery.

CICA provided 15 volunteers who worked extremely hard in cleaning and landscaping the IRU grounds. They donated the resources and plants to help beautify this space. “CICA had such a wonderful and eye-opening experience that they would like to help with the upkeep of the garden and return to do some more fall gardening. This was the largest corporate volunteer group to date and they were able to connect with the IRU program seamlessly,” said Jim Davey, Corporate Volunteer Coordinator.

The CICA corporate volunteer group provided resources and plants to significantly improve the green space for the Schizophrenia’s IRU Unit. Now the space is welcoming and conducive to relaxation and recovery.

“I see it as my role to make the connections between volunteers and clients -- I think it’s all about the interactions that occur between those two groups. The gardening day went really well,” commented Hesther Tims, IRU Social Worker. “Prior to their arrival, a client asked me: ‘what are they coming for? Just to look at mental health patients?’ We told her they want to learn more about life in the hospital. They want to get to know us and lend a hand with the work going on in the IRU. This client ended up enjoying the day and even gave a little speech thanking the volunteers at the end!”

The IRU is designed to provide care for the most severely and persistently mentally ill clients who require a stable, long-term setting and active rehabilitation. This recovery-focused program emphasizes flexibility, increased social stimulation and support in skills development. The goals of the IRU are to promote the highest level of quality of life for clients and to assist them in achieving their individual rehabilitation and recovery goals.

Recreation Therapists Jennifer Weese and Lesley Hughes as well as Hesther, were instrumental in making the gardening day fantastic. The clients of IRU assisted the volunteers in all aspects of the gardening and together they enjoyed the fresh fruit and lemonade provided by the unit. They cleaned the garden beds in the morning and then planted in the afternoon together.

The work of the CICA volunteers and the IRU clients and staff transformed the space into a beautiful garden.

“It’s also useful to hear from the volunteers if we met their expectations, if things were different from what was anticipated. It was interesting to talk with them about stereotypes and start normalizing the behaviour of patients,” added Hesther.

If you would like more info about the Corporate Volunteer Program please contact at ext. 6238.

The CAMH Corporate Volunteer program is about "Creating partnerships to build healthy communities."

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