A growing project at Bellahouston Park is helping ex-offenders learn new skills and boost their employability.
Volunteers from the Recreate programme run by Community Safety Glasgow can learn a variety of skills while rebuilding their confidence and earning qualifications.
Finding a job can be exceptionally difficult for people with criminal convictions, yet having a job is known to reduce the risk of reoffending. Recreate was set up in a bid to tackle this dilemma.
A year-long pilot project at Daldowie Training Centre proved successful and funding from Police Scotland then enabled the project to move to a 40ft by 20ft plot at the Bellahouston Demonstration Garden where the volunteers built new raised beds, laid a patio area and erected a 20ft poly-tunnel.
The garden (opposite the ski centre in Bellahouston Park) has numerous plots used by different groups. Recreate was offered its plot after its volunteers built a Journey to Recovery growing space for MacMillan Cancer Support.
Brenda Fulton, a MacMillan plot user, said: "Recreate volunteers built our plot for us with raised beds and a patio area. They also put our greenhouse up and filled the beds with top soil. Our plot is on a slope and we couldn't have done it without them. We just don't have the skills. Now it's a lovely place to work or just to sit and enjoy the plants."
People can be referred to Recreate after completing a Community Payback Order, either by Social Work, a job centre or by self-referral.
Some volunteers have lived chaotic lives for a number of years but the garden is a peaceful place where they feel safe. Growing vegetables from seed also gives them a sense of pride and achievement and they can learn about pruning and hard landscaping from instructors. Interacting with others and as part of a team can also aid interpersonal skills.
Volunteers spend a few weeks learning about horticulture and garden maintenance on the plot while staff work hard to find them six month placements in areas such as construction, wood working, vehicle maintenance or landscaping. During this time they receive one-to-one mentoring support and make use of employability and support services. A high number of volunteers go on to gain employment, return to education or are accepted on to other programmes after completing their placements.
The project led to a horticultural career for former volunteer, Julian.
The 35-year-old successfully landed a job with Glasgow City Council's Assisted Garden Maintenance team after discovering a love of gardening at Recreate.
He said: "After completing my community payback order, it was really disheartening applying for lots of jobs and never hearing back. I was really down, but when I joined Recreate, I found I loved being out in the garden. The staff were non-judgemental, and I learned a lot about hard landscaping, propagation, first aid and looking after plants. The garden is like a wee community, everyone helps everyone else and that makes you feel good.
"I got a job with the council and I'm very positive now. I'm even eating better and getting lots of exercise. I've paid to go on a horticultural course at the Botanic Gardens and I'm also doing a course in bike repair and maintenance. It's fair to say Recreate has changed my life."
Councillor Jim Coleman, Chair of Community Safety Glasgow, said Recreate has dual benefits.
He said: "Recreate is a great project giving ex-offenders a second chance to learn skills and rebuild their lives. It is not only good for the individuals involved but also for wider society. Helping people get their lives back on track by improving their employability and boosting their self-worth can help stop reoffending. And that is good for everyone."