International Tree Foundation’s Wellbeing in the Woods project (made possible by People’s Postcode Lottery) has been working with young adults in Sheffield who’ve experienced homelessness. Kieran McSorley who suffered with self-confidence and anxiety, has benefited from ITF’s project in many ways. Read his story below to see how it impacted his life.
” I like having to use my brain rather than doing something mindlessly “
“I came to live at Sheffield Foyer in March 2019. I was rock bottom at that point. I had been staying at friends and on the streets sometimes, but then I got a room here. Joe and Karen suggested coming to the woods. I knew right away that I would like it – it’s my sort of thing. I grew up in the country and was always outside. It was a small town in the middle of nowhere. I also did six years in the cadets so I’d done orienteering and camouflage and concealment, as well as first aid and weapon training.
At the first session I learned how to make a fire with the bow and drill – although I didn’t manage to do it at first. I got it the second time because I was absolutely determined to! Neil’s stew was rather fine, so that was one thing that kept bringing me back too. The photography was awesome and my photos turned out way better than I thought they would. At Greno Woods we made shelters, but the best thing was picking and eating bilberries. They would be really good in porridge – and of course I made a stirrer for that on the pole lathe. I got how that worked – I had used a machine one in school and college. I love carpentry. Every piece of wood is different so you’re going to come across some different challenges each time. I like having to use my brain rather than doing something mindlessly.
” People learn by making mistakes “
All of the activities had a challenge in some way. I never made a walking stick before or that type of stool – nothing with green wood. You have to go by feel – not like machined wood where you can see the knots. I did feel a bit anxious about messing up. When I had to show other people how to do things- that was terrifying! I was nervous doing it at the exhibition – especially when I realised the room was full of people. I just focused on what I was doing. Having something to do made it easier. The way I like to teach people is to tell them how to do it and then only stop them when they do it wrong. People learn by making mistakes. I just get more determined when it goes wrong.
It was cool meeting new people at the sessions. It’s good to get different perspectives. It was good with the staff getting stuck in as well. It was a much more relaxed environment to be with staff. They have a doors open policy here, but it still seems sort of ‘officey’ with them sat at their desks. It’s more of a professional environment here, but in the woods it was just like a nice thing to be doing together.
” People are happier the more they are in nature “
It made a massive difference to me – I was a depressed mess when I got here. I had so much anxiety I didn’t really move from my room for a month. Going outside is easier now – going to events on my own in town. I used it as a way of getting out – a stepping stone to meeting people face on. Group therapy doesn’t work for me – but this did. It made me feel like I’ve achieved something. I’m a workaholic and I get really hyper when I’m at work. I’m not working at the moment, but doing therapy doesn’t give me the same sense of achievement. I like to be doing something.
After the New Year I’m planning to move out. I want to get back into work to get some management experience. I want to have my own street food business. My advice to other people is that any struggle you’re having you’ve got to get on and do something about it. Swallow your pride and ask for help. That held me back for years. It was stupid to think I could work it all out by myself. There is something special about being in the woods – people are happier the more they are in nature. We need sunlight for vitamin D. The bacteria in dirt stave off anxiety. It’s necessary, not just something you could do. Your body needs it and your mind needs it too.”
If you want to know more about ITF’s project Wellbeing in the Woods click below!