Otago Polytechnic
MS gardening projectc 2

MS Gardeners

Two of our Occupational Therapy students have been helping people with Multiple Sclerosis get into gardening.

The Otago Multiple Sclerosis Society is a non-profit organisation which is a support service for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis and their families. The MS Otago group has around 300 members from Oamaru down to Balclutha and inland to Wanaka. The aim of MS Otago is to empower people with Multiple Sclerosis by providing them with support, education, information and skills to participate actively in the community in ways that are meaningful to them.

After considering the needs of the members of MS Otago and researching options, Occupational Therapy students Zoe Mulcahy and Emma Thomas undertook to improve the connectedness of this community by enabling members to engage in a meaningful occupation of gardening. Supervised by Lecturer Sarah Redfearn, Zoe and Emma facilitated four one-hour workshops to plan with the group on how to revamp an existing raised garden in a sustainable way that can be used by all clients. They educated group members about tools/aids/adaptations that can be utilized to enable members to participate in this meaningful activity. They also made connections with YouthGrow and with the horticultural department at Otago Polytechnic, to partner with MS Otago by providing plants, compost, and knowledge to reestablish the garden, and to ensure sustainability of the garden beyond the students' involvement.

Gardening provides physical and psychological benefits, and social benefits could also be gained through the sharing of knowledge and skills amongst group members by providing a common interest. The aim was to produce a sustainable garden that can be used by members year round.