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Green thumbs may earn money for Mark

For four years Cerebral Palsy Alliance client Mark Hall has been assisting James Listberger, Project Manager Project Green, and now Mark’s love of gardening might earn him a small income.

James, 23, has been working with Cerebral Palsy Alliance as a Disability Support Practitioner since he was 19. This year, his university studies have reduced the time he spends with clients but James has remained devoted to Project Green – the gardening project he and Mark started together.

Project Green headquarters is the Lifestyle Supports facility at Allambie Heights and four people with disability, including Mark, keep the garden blooming.

“They share the responsibility of looking after the garden, watering, weeding, repotting herbs and succulents and attending to the compost bins,” explains James.

James can be found at Allambie Heights two days a week and when he isn’t there, Mark is the driving force. “Mark has been propagating succulents and herbs and he also does most of the watering.”

In fact, it’s Mark’s commitment to these plants that has allowed Project Green to prosper to the stage where it has a contract with New Leaf Nursery to supply succulents. New Leaf is a community minded nursery in the northern Sydney suburb of Ingleside which has been featured on the ABC TV program, Gardening Australia.

“Mark and I are getting ready to take our first batch of succulents to New Leaf,” James says proudly.

The main aim of Project Green is to enable people who have a disability to come to Allambie Heights and experience the garden, enjoy being outdoors and weed and plant in the beds that have been built to a height to suit people who use wheelchairs. There are also outings to garden centres and opportunities to build gardens in other community centres.

“Gardening gives people a sense of accomplishment because they can see what they create,” says James.

Mark agrees and adds that he gets satisfaction from “watching the plants grow”.

But gardening also requires committed hard work and after about a year of propagating and selling herbs and succulents to friends, family and staff at Cerebral Palsy Alliance, along with a welcomed donation from Blackmores, Project Green has the infrastructure in place to take a step into the commercial world.

“We don’t expect to make a lot of money initially but the longer-term aim is for the garden to earn enough revenue to cover expenses and allow Mark and the other participants to be paid.”

While Mark is delighted with the idea of earning money from his hobby it remains secondary to the enjoyment gardening gives him. He’s propagated about 60 succulents for New Leaf and he explains it feels good to be involved in such a worthwhile project.

“I also love watering,” he says. “It’s relaxing and calming to be outdoors.”

James smiles when he hears this. “There’s a lot of evidence to show that gardening is great for your physical and mental wellbeing. It’s also awesome that Mark and the other gardeners can be actively contributing to something that could be self-sustaining.”

Participation in social activities can be funded by your NDIS plan under Increased Social and Community Participation. For information about what is available in your area, contact your local Cerebral Palsy Alliance office.

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Cerebral Palsy Alliance has been supporting people with a range of complex disabilities in accommodation for more than 50 years.

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