John Labram, who designed and created two award winning gardens at the UK’s famous Chelsea Flower Show, is the first person to donate money for a tree at Yackandandah Health’s CARE Sanctuary.

John is also part of the garden working group for the project.

The CARE Sanctuary received $200,000 funding from the Victorian government’s Pick My Project initiative last year. It is one of eight successful projects in the Ovens Murray region and received 212 community votes. The concept was proposed by Tijana Simic, Yackandandah resident and manager of the project. It is expected to be operating by the end of the year.

Yackandandah Health CEO, Annette Nuck said CARE stands for: Community garden, Animals, Relationships and Education.

“It’s the sanctuary’s mission to build community cohesion and improve wellbeing through positive engagement with animals, gardens and education. Human-animal interaction has been shown to improve physical, social and mental health for people of all ages,” she said.

So far, time has been spent securing planning and building permits for the animal barns and setting up two working parties to advise on the animal and garden components of the project.

Ms Nuck said ten members of the community with expertise and/or an interest in the project have joined the working parties.

“The community interest has been really strong and there are opportunities for more people to be involved,” she said.

The project funds meet the animal sanctuary and building costs, but they are now seeking donations of money to purchase a selection of trees, including fruit and nut trees, native screening plants and vegetables and herbs and berries required for the productive garden.

“We are seeking donations of money to help purchase plants, pots, raised garden beds and garden seats. These donations will make a great legacy for yourself or one of your family members, with all contributions acknowledged within the garden,” Ms Nuck said.

Many of Yackandandah Health’s aged care residents come from farming backgrounds. Leaving farms and animals to move to residential care can be associated with trauma, loss and grief.

“The CARE Sanctuary will connect our older residents to others in the community and to a garden and animals they can help care for. This gives them a meaningful outdoor activity that contributes to their physical wellbeing and establishes connections with other people. It will also be used by children in our Little Yacks Childcare Centre,” she said.