A grant from Macmillan Cancer Support has enabled Lads & Dads, a men’s mental health support group based in the Bridgend area, to develop their allotment facilities for members.

The Macmillan grant funded a shed, table and chairs, teas and coffees, as well as a poly-tunnel and wood to make raised beds.

The ambition is that, as well as enhancing the working space where vegetables and fruit can be grown for the members all year round, there will be opportunities for Lads & Dads members to share knowledge, as well as becoming an informal check-in space.

The weatherproof shed will provide a dry, secure and private space for members to share concerns or to ask about support in confidence. The shed will also have information on a QR code poster signposting anyone who has concerns and questions about cancer to the Macmillan Support Line which offers free and confidential support to people living with cancer support and their loved ones.

Lads & Dads was established in Bridgend in 2019 by Rob Lester, to support men with their mental wellbeing.  From his own personal experience of waiting to access any bereavement counselling and support, Rob Lester felt that men were waiting too long to access vital support for their mental health. From dealing with grief, to debt advice and even family-courts, team members are there to listen and offer support.

Now in its fifth year, the group has more than 2000 active members with 10 committee members.

Speaking about the impact that the Macmillan grant will have, Lads & Dads Treasurer, Dave Muckell, said: “The grant from Macmillan has really helped us to extend the sessions and times that members can access the allotment. We can be more flexible in when our members can come,

“The polytunnel and the wood to make the raised beds mean that even those in poor health or who cannot bend easily, through treatment or for other reasons, can be involved in the allotment work.

“My life has been touched by cancer. I have survived cancer so understand the pain, both physically and mentally, that cancer can bring.  I am really keen that we are there to signpost our members to the clinical, emotional and financial support that Macmillan offers.

“I think that being outside is really important for everyone’s mental health and we’re lucky in Bridgend that we do have lots of brilliant places to explore and enjoy. Whether it is our regular Sunday morning cold water therapy dips or our organised walking events, the informal activities create crucial opportunities for our members to connect with one another.”

Feedback from group members to the allotment improvements has been very positive. Comments include: “Spending time on the allotment for me has given me a space to break away from the stresses of daily life for a moment of peace and calm. It offers a sense of fulfilment, seeing the work we put in produce some tasty crops. I’ve found a safe and calm environment where it’s okay to open up and talk, growing some good friendships as well as the veg.

Cancer is something that will affect most of us in our lifetimes, either directly or through a loved one. The work Macmillan do and the community spaces such as the allotment they support are such a vital lifeline for so many”

“The allotment has helped me learn new hands-on practical skills and meet new people. It also helps with switching off and helps with my extreme anxiety”

“My time spent at the allotments is incredibly beneficial to me for a number of reasons. It gives me a sense of purpose which can be difficult for me having been forced to retire quite young due to mental health issues. It gives me a reason to leave the house and meet friends. I know I will spend time with like-minded men, who if I need to would discuss any issues. It is a safe place which allows me to relax and enjoy the company and the natural surroundings. “

“Sometimes I visit on my own and just sit outside the shed and listen to the birds which is really relaxing and a good mindfulness moment. When I get home, I get a real sense of satisfaction of a good morning’s work. It’s a bonus then when we pick and enjoy the produce. A magical place for all the lads”

On 3 March, Dave took on a Macmillan fundraising Brave the Shave challenge. He smashed his initial target and raised an impressive £382 for the cancer charity. You can still donate and support Dave’s at Profile | Brave The Shave | Macmillan Cancer Support.

Speaking about his challenge, Dave, said: “I have seen a much loved, close family member and several close friends going through treatment recently, and I really wanted to do something impactful to support them.

“When I took on the Brave the Shave challenge, it wasn’t just a show of support; I felt it was a way to say to ‘You’re not alone’. I wanted to give back to Macmillan, who has been a tremendous support for those close to me and for so many, on their journey against cancer.”

Speaking about the grant Macmillan Engagement Lead, Helen Ley, said: “While men represent 52% of cancer cases in the UK, only 38% of the calls to the Macmillan Support Line come from men. This means men are missing out on getting the support they need. We need to get more men talking about cancer and seeking support.

“That’s why I was so happy to support this application as we are keen to let men know that Macmillan is there for them, and the Lads & Dads allotment provides an excellent space for us to do this.

“When you talk with Dave and the other team members of Lads & Dads, you cannot help but be inspired by their compassion and dogged determination to help the mental wellbeing of men. This resolute focus comes from their own experiences and frustrations at accessing any kind of emotional support.

“I also want to say a very big thank you to Dave. He took on Macmillan’s Brave the Shave challenge. That’s a really big deal and Macmillan is very grateful to Dave for doing this for us.”

If you would like to find out more about Lads & Dads, please visit their website www.ladsanddads.org  or go to their Facebook page. facebook.com/groups/612559259272314

Talking about cancer can be tough. Our Macmillan cancer information and support specialists offer a listening ear. We can talk about whatever matters to you. We can also offer guidance and help you find the right information and support in your area.

You can call the Macmillan Support Line for free on 0808 808 00 008am to 8pm, 7 days a weekAdvisers can provide emotional and practical support and information.