Richard's story | RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

Richard was part of the gardening group at Freedom from Torture. Because of what happened to him, he had to escape his home country and seek refuge in the UK. Our therapists referred him to the gardening group, an opportunity to rebuild his confidence and rebuild his life. 

When Freedom from Torture referred me to the gardening group, I asked to be referred to the football group instead.  

But my therapist asked me to go to the gardening group and see how I felt, to see if I liked it. At the end of my first day, they asked me how I felt, and if I wanted to change groups. I said give me a chance to continue. I wanted to stay. I didn't want to go to the other group. Even if football had been on the same day, I would have preferred the gardening group. 

The garden at Freedom from Torture became the most important thing to me. 

When you were in a bad mood, you came into the garden, and it was like getting fresh air. You could try to forget everything outside. The things we would grow in the gardening group, like tomatoes, or potatoes, I would bring them home to share with friends and family. 

When we came to the gardening group, we came together, as family. I connected with people in the group. We were having difference encounters with people we hadn’t met before and we would talk to each other and share stories and experiences. I keep in touch with the people I met. It’s a family. All because of the garden here. 

The garden became a passion for me. I walked around the garden. I tried to learn everything, about the garden, the flowers, the compost.  

One of the plants I grew was lavender. When I smell it, it takes my stress away. It’s like a medicine for me, to make me sleep. Sometimes we are so stressed and the people who come into Freedom from Torture, they are feeling stressed.  The lavender that goes into the new garden, it will be so important for helping other survivors. 

Now, I try to help people in the garden. People ask me “Where did you learn that?” and I say “Freedom from Torture. I was in the gardening group.” 

The Freedom from Torture gardening group uses horticultural therapy to support survivors of torture heal on their recovery to journey. Find out more about the therapy and support we provide.