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As a personal trainer, Stephen Fraser knows the value of physical activity. And he’s not afraid of hard work. So, when he signed up to become a volunteer with Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, it seemed apt that he’d be put to work on the ambitious Growchapel project to create a community allotment project in the Drumchapel area of Glasgow where CHSS will have its own growing plot. For the 34-year-old, the experience has been an overwhelmingly positive one, helping transform a waste piece of land into a growing space for the community.
Stephen said: “Being a volunteer has given me a real sense of fulfilment. I’m lucky that the role in the garden adds an additional level of nature. Being outside really helps with mindfulness, whether that’s building planters from scratch or discussing what to grow where. “There’s a sense of purpose, too, knowing the work we are doing will aid and help others to flourish. Giving someone even 10 minutes of distraction or peace from their own situations can go a long way.”
Stephen lives in Glasgow where he owns the FITT Principle, a fitness studio, and hosts a podcast that focuses on mind and body wellbeing. He has also returned to study, doing an Honours degree in psychology. Adding a volunteering role on to an already busy schedule brings “organized chaos” as he puts it. But he’s thriving on all the different challenges.
He said: “Community is such an integral pillar for the wellbeing of others but also ourselves. We all need strong ties to the people around us to feel fulfilled. Working with Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland has most definitely done that for me. “This is my first time I’ve been involved in an ongoing volunteering role and working with CHSS throughout the whole project has been great. “Working in the fields of health and psychology, I knew volunteering could be powerful and give a real sense of community. But when you get to know other volunteers, you build such authentic relationships in pursuit of a common goal. It’s an unrivalled feeling. “Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland know that volunteers have their own lives to schedule around their time, and they are super supportive and accommodating. Helping out has never felt like a chore.”
Chris Docherty is the CHSS Health Defence Community Engagement Officer, based at the Maryhill Hub in Glasgow, and he’s coordinating the development of the organisation’s Growchapel plot.
He said: “The plot started off as a dirt patch and is now almost functioning as a garden. And Stephen has played an integral part in that. He’s helped with clearing the site, building and planning the infrastructure, and putting in the heavy lifting. “And that’s brought us to the point where we are taking advantage of the growing season and seeing our inclusive CHSS plot come to life. “Stephen’s done all of this off his own bat while juggling his business and furthering his education. He’s been on site through literal rain, hail, snow, wind, sun and the usual four seasons in one day that is the Scottish weather. “He’s a credit to himself and an absolute pleasure to work with.”