The Seeds of Hope Scotland project was born out of the first covid-19 lockdown, in April 2020. At that stage, we donated 10,000 packets of wildflower seeds to isolated folk in Scotland. Here's how it all began.
I'm Serena - I founded Seeds of Hope Scotland as a small, temporary not-for-profit initiative at the beginning of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.
I come from a background of working in conservation charities, and so I've seen what a difference nature and gardening can make to people's mental health.
It has also made me very aware of the huge environmental challenges we face in Scotland and beyond, from habitat loss and decreasing biodiversity to the threats faced by bees and other pollinators.
However, the immediate catalyst for the project was much more personal.
A close relative of mine was told to shield right at the beginning of the pandemic. He lives alone, and I was too far away to visit.
To cheer him up, I sent him some wildflower and vegetable seeds to sow in his garden. And so it began!
I quickly realised that other people might appreciate some 'seeds of hope' too.
So I set myself a target of getting 10,000 packets of wildflower seeds - each attached to a cheerful postcard - to vulnerable and isolated folk in Scotland by the end of May 2020.
I wanted to create a patchwork of colour, beauty and wildlife that would begin to bloom during the summer, when everything else might still seem rather dark.
Unlike many other plants, wildflowers need minimal care and usually thrive in poor soils. They pop up against all the odds, and help bees, butterflies and other creatures thrive, too. They're beautiful, they're valuable, and they're survivors.
So many wonderful individuals got involved with the project. Seed companies donated wildflower seed mix, friends helped pack the seeds, a crowdfunder we ran raised over £800, and voluntary groups all over Scotland offered to distribute our ‘seeds of hope’ within their communities.
By the end of May 2020, we’d given away almost 10,100 packets of wildflower seeds, to over 80 groups. These included:
A Scottish charity working with people in the early stages of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction
Several charities supporting people with mental and physical disabilities
A care home looking after residents with complex needs
Many nurseries, primary and secondary schools running educational growing projects for their pupils
Several outreach groups providing food and care parcels to people in deprived urban areas
Various small community gardening groups, run by volunteers and dedicated to improving the green spaces in their local areas
During June 2020, we were also lucky enough to be awarded a grant of £2,000 from the Scottish Government's Community Wellbeing Fund, set up to help organisations support people affected by Covid-19. This allowed us to source enough wildflower seeds to donate to four more groups.
For this project, we chose a perennial mix of seeds that will re-grow for several years in a row - long after the current crisis has passed. We thought this would help give people hope for the future - something to tend and nurture as we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, and find a new way forward.
HOW WE DEVELOPED
It quickly became apparent that there was a real enthusiasm for the project, and many people were keen to see it continue on a longer-term basis. Our wee seeds really did seem to be making a difference, both to folks’ mental health and the environment.
So - we explored how we might be able to continue our work on a financially sustainable basis, and took the decision to continue operating, as a social enterprise business.
WHAT WE DO NOW
We now run an online shop selling native wildflower seeds, organic vegetable and herb seeds, and cheerful accompanying postcards by independent designers.
We also create custom-branded packets of seeds in larger quantities, for organisations who want to give them as gifts to their staff, volunteers, customers or students.
Crucially, we spend 10% of all funds received on running more seed giveaways. That's 10% of all turnover, not just profits.
So for example - if you spend £100 on buying seeds from us, £10 of that will go into our giveaway fund. That's what allows us to continue to help good causes, on an ongoing basis.
It's where it all began, and it will always be a core part of what we do.