Shobha's story Being house-bound at the moment I’m very limited with what I can do. I can’t just go anywhere or do anything and I don’t have a carer so I’m on my own all the time. I was looking for something to do and heard, through my service in Redbridge, about this gardening opportunity. As soon as I saw the allotments it was like, “Bingo!” Growing up in Tanzania, east Africa, we had our own farm. My dad was a policeman, so was my granddad, and we used to live in the forest where elephants, lions and rhinos were our neighbours. We had to grow our own vegetables, too, so I recognise every single plant. I love gardening. Since I started tending to these allotments my depression has vanished. I don’t feel sad or suicidal anymore. If I was able to I would come every day to this garden. I come once a week for SHP’s Green Garden sessions and it’s a life saver. I live in Ilford and there’s no garden – it’s all concrete. I had never done gardening in London but now my eyes have opened up and the senses that I thought had died – because it was so depressing being in the city – have been revived. When I lost my job I was really depressed and couldn’t do anything because of the problem with the arthritis in my knees, spine and lower back. I kept being told I needed to lose weight but how can I lose weight when I can’t walk? The gardens are very good therapy. If I had a tent in these gardens I would sleep in it. I’m waiting for an operation on my knees. After that I should be fine and I’ll possibly be able to walk and then be free. Then I can roll in the compost! Some people have the urge to eat chocolate but for me it’s rolling in the manure, it’s just something that I’ve missed all these years. I’m even able to talk now because I was really inside myself. I was so fed up of life, I just wanted to end it but now I’ve started gardening I no longer suffer flashbacks and can fall asleep easily. The staff here are so understanding and really supportive. It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, they will support you and there is nothing you can do wrong, everything is right. Last week we planted garlic and harvested some delicious vegetables, which we took to the office to cook. This garden is very good therapy. To me it’s like winning the lottery and it feels like church as well what with so much peace. I’ve now been given a rosebed to use, too, and I’ll be able to use my wheelchair to access it. The plots are specially designed for disabled people and mine is quite a big patch, about 8ft long. If I had a tent in these gardens I would sleep in it.