Glenn finds new opportunities thanks to Durham Wildlife Trust project

A project run by Durham Wildlife Trust is playing a key role in helping people to get the most out of life – and profoundly deaf volunteer Glenn Thompson is the perfect example of its success.
Naturally Social Glenn

Glenn, 33 from Tantobie, Stanley, is working as a Durham Wildlife Trust volunteer after a link up with the specialist Health and Wellbeing team within Reaching Out Across Durham (ROAD), a voluntary service, and Durham Wildlife Trust’s Naturally Social initiative.

Reaching Out Across Durham’s teams work with residents of County Durham who are aged 25+ and are out of work. They can provide help to individuals who need support with managing their finances and/or have any digital/educational/employment requirements.

Naturally Social is supported by the National Lottery Community Fund and Stanley Area Action Partnership and delivered by Durham Wildlife Trust. Based around conservation sites in Consett and Stanley, the project aims to address people’s mental and physical well-being through engagement with nature in a friendly, social environment.

Similarly, ROAD helps people to identify areas of improvement that could help them to lead a better quality of life, to explore what their likes, interests, hopes and aspirations are.

ROAD Health Trainer Faye Smith was asked to support Glenn. In her initial meeting with him, she identified that he lives a good quality of life but that there was some structure missing to his week. On discussing options with his mother, Julie Thompson, who helps to communicate with sign language, Faye discovered that Glenn loves the outdoors and has his own allotment where he likes to grow his own vegetables.

Faye suggested that Glenn be part of the Naturally Social project, starting out with a scheme which involved heathland clearing to enable the heather to thrive on a site near New Kyo, Stanley.

Glenn enjoyed his time so much that he requested to become a formal volunteer for Durham Wildlife Trust. Now, giving one and a half days each week, Glenn works on the community allotment project in Annfield Plain and conservation sites in the local vicinity.

Durham Wildlife Trust says that working outdoors can be good for mental health and that Glenn’s story is a good example on World Mental Health Day (Thursday October 10).

Mandy Bell, who runs Naturally Social, said: “Glenn has made such a difference already. He is enjoying the variety of duties and gets on well with the other volunteers. I feel so lucky to have gained such a fantastic worker. Durham Wildlife Trust believe there are so many benefits to getting involved in a project like this one. You meet new people and develop relationships, you get fitter, learn new skills and we bring people closer to their local natural world, which is beneficial to both physical and mental well-being.”

Faye Smith, ROAD Health Trainer, said: “We believe that there should be no barriers to people leading a fulfilled life. Sometimes people just need the help of another person to match their needs with an organisation, support group, project or key individual. A lot of good happens in County Durham, but it is not always easy to navigate services. I’ve loved introducing Glenn to Durham Wildlife Trust and likewise, Durham Wildlife Trust to Glenn. The development of this new relationship has been beneficial to both and I’m thrilled to have facilitated it.

“Glenn now has more structure to his week, is learning so much, and is feeling an increased sense of mental and physical wellbeing. He is now a valued member of Durham Wildlife Trust’s volunteer staff and has gained new friends in the process, really adding value to his social outlook.

“There are so many positive aspects associated with being in and around nature and the ROAD team have been very happy to work so closely with Durham Wildlife Trust. We know that Glenn will continue to achieve his potential and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for him.”

The ROAD website is