Hello - I'm Serena and I run Seeds of Hope Scotland.
HOW WE BEGAN
I first started the project as a small, 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. I was also very aware of how isolated and vulnerable folk were likely to feel during the crisis. 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 plant in his garden. And so it began!
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.
DID WE HIT OUR TARGET?
Yes - by the end of May 2020 we had sent out almost 10,100 packets of seeds. This was achieved due to the generosity and energy of so many fantastic people. A crowdfunder we ran raised over £800, companies donated both seeds and invaluable advice, and volunteer groups all over Scotland distributed our wildflower seeds in their local communities.
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.
Here's the list of groups we've been able to give seeds to so far.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
I originally intended Seeds of Hope Scotland to be a short-term response to an immediate and specific event. But I was blown away by the positive feedback it received. Our wee seeds really did seem to be making a difference, and many people assumed it was a permanent programme.
I obviously couldn't run a seed giveaway forever - it just wasn't financially sustainable. But I did want the project to continue long-term. So I took the decision to transition it into a social enterprise business.
We now sell our wildflower seed 'packages' to organisations throughout the UK, for those organisations to give to their employees, volunteers, customers and service users.
We also help companies undertake outreach work in their local communities, and meet their environmental and corporate social responsibility targets.
For example, we can provide seeds and support to transform a derelict building site into a wildflower meadow. Or we can make up wildflower seed gift packages, for companies to donate to schools.
Whatever form a contract takes, we always put 10% of what we're paid into our 'good cause pot', for us to spend on future seed giveaways in Scotland.
That's where it all began, and it will always be a core part of what we do.