From ‘no man’s land’ to sen­sory gar­den

Hamilton Press - - OUT & ABOUT - KEL­LEY TANTAU

In the mid­dle of Life Un­lim­ited’s Hamil­ton base is a sanc­tu­ary.

The char­i­ta­ble trust has re­cently opened their sen­sory gar­den - aimed to allow those us­ing it to ex­pe­ri­ence a range of sen­sory stim­uli.

But co-or­di­na­tor Wendy van den Berg says it looks just like a reg­u­lar gar­den, but with a wide range of ben­e­fits.

‘‘It’s about en­rich­ing peo­ple’s lives, hav­ing those ex­pe­ri­ences, and find­ing what peo­ple do and don’t like.

‘‘It’s a re­ally good en­vi­ron­ment for peo­ple to learn how to re­lax.’’

Van den Berg looks af­ter Whare-O-Rongo, Life Un­lim­ited’s multi-sen­sory room which hosts up to 40 users ev­ery week.

It was her idea to in­cor­po­rate a low-ly­ing ham­mock to the gar­den.

‘‘I didn’t want to have seats. I don’t want to en­cour­age peo­ple to nec­es­sar­ily sit and look. You’ve got to be able to have a space to en­joy and move around.

‘‘It’s ac­ces­si­ble for ev­ery­body with dis­abil­i­ties but it doesn’t look like it. It is just a nor­mal gar­den and has all these things in­ter­twined with it.’’

With a wa­ter fea­ture at one end, and bird feed­ers in the mid­dle to en­cour­age wild birds, the gar­den is an oa­sis in the mid­dle of two build­ings. There are

‘‘It's a re­ally good en­vi­ron­ment for peo­ple to learn how to re­lax.’’

herbs such as mint, pars­ley, co­rian­der and pineap­ple sage - which offers a unique aroma.

The not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion be­gan in 1979 as the Dis­abled Liv­ing Cen­tre (Waikato) Trust Inc, and changed its op­er­at­ing name in 1997 to Life Un­lim­ited to re­flect the wider scope of ser­vices pro­vided.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Brown said the gar­den was de­signed to help peo­ple leave the fa­cil­ity happy.

‘‘We have peo­ple com­ing into the multi-sen­sory room here and it’s fully booked ev­ery day. So peo­ple are com­ing and hav­ing ei­ther a stim­u­lat­ing or calm­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘We felt there was a lot to add to that with the out­door en­vi­ron­ment, and just be­ing able to in­ter­act with plants and grass, so the whole de­sign was made around ex­tend­ing the room into an out­door en­vi­ron­ment.’’

Brown said be­fore the gar­den, the space be­tween the two Life Un­lim­ited build­ings was a no­man’s land.

‘‘For some of the peo­ple who come here, it’s re­ally just go­ing to give them an­other op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with things in a safe en­vi­ron­ment,’’ he said.

‘‘I think there’s po­ten­tial for the fu­ture. We’ve done the ba­sics here but there’s things that we can add to it as we go along.’’

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