ART teacher and artist, Ashleigh Ellis, is one of the newest volunteers with Green Spaces for Health, but her impact since joining in September 2020 has been inspiring.
Green Spaces for Health is a city-wide, community-led initiative.
The Eco-Social Group looks to foster a reverence for nature for the benefit of biodiversity and mental health.
Through their work, the organisation maintains existing green spaces and seeks out new greening opportunities.
Ashleigh designed the wildflower garden that the group has been working on at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral and is now designing a very interesting project for the initiative’s community garden at Parkowen, near Douglas Street.
The group will be planting plants that produce dyes for clothing.
The idea is the plants are great for biodiversity and it will be a novel way to get the community involved in nature.
Speaking to The Echo, Ashleigh said she found the group after chatting with the gardener at Nano Nagle Place about getting more involved in gardening and nature.
“I was chatting to Ellie, who designed the garden at Nano Nagle Place and who maintains it, and she recommended I get in touch with Green Spaces for Health.”
Ashleigh made contact with the group last September after moving home from Hampshire where she had been working as an art teacher in a boarding school for 13- to 18-year-olds.
“I moved home in the middle of the pandemic, a hectic time to settle back in Ireland. I had moved back home to Ireland last summer, and was looking to engage with the community, to meet people. I also had just moved into a flat with no garden, and was missing having a reason to be outside.”
Ashleigh said that she loves helping out with the group and feels a part of a positive community.
”Working together with purpose, and caring for each other and our surroundings really builds community spirit, it’s a great feeling! It has allowed me to meet so many people and work on positive things together. It’s a great way to make friends and meet your neighbours. I find that people are curious and friendly with each other, rather than closed or suspicious.”
The young teacher and artist said that she is very motivated to remain involved in the organisation.
“I really feel that the work we are doing, caring for our urban nature and biodiversity, helps everyone who lives and works here. We know now through science and research that even just being around the colours blue and green helps anxiety and our mental health and of course, fresh oxygen, watching birds, and being in beautiful spaces makes the city a healthier and better place to be, for me, and for everyone else.”
Ashleigh said being a part of the eco-social group has made her realise that one person really can make a difference, and when there’s a few of you, even more of a difference!
“It takes action, not just good ideas, and good communication with other community groups is key.”
The textile focused and natural dye artist said the work she is doing with the community is helping to bring people together in a way that is beneficial and cathartic.
“It connects people together, for a shared, positive purpose that is not motivated by money or personal life goals. This is so important in our culture right now, to be part of a positive community and to be a part of creating the world we want to live in.”
Ashleigh said it was also important to remember that they are not just doing these things for the local community of people, but also for the biodiversity and animals living alongside us.
“The work with Green Spaces for Health is about caring not just for each other, but for the other living creatures that we live with, seen or unseen. They are there, they are our neighbours too, and we are just starting to realise that we depend on them just as much as each other.”
The 33-year-old said there is a fine diverse mix of ages involved in the organisation and she encouraged people, young and old, to get involved in the work that Green Spaces for Health is doing.
“There is a whole range of projects ongoing. If you are interested in finding out more or coming to help, email firstname.lastname@example.org.”