From ‘no man’s land’ to sensory garden
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.’’