Lauren’s Legacy: Mallee Ward gardening art project

Mario Corena is a passionate advocate for young people experiencing mental illness. His daughter Lauren died nearly six years ago after spending much of her early adolescent years in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s Boylan and Adolescent wards.

Now, as her legacy, Mario has created the Lauren Corena Fund. Through support from this fund, patients in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s Mallee Ward (previously Boylan Ward) will now have the opportunity to undertake gardening art activities in their new outdoor space through our Arts in Health program. The new ward is purpose-built to allow patients to be outdoors whilst still inside the Hospital campus.

Mario said, “The new ward gives patients an environment that’s not like hospital, even though it is in the Hospital, it’s really, really marvellous what they’ve done.”

Mallee Ward gardening art project

The Mallee Ward Play Therapist, Kate, will run weekly sessions to plant seedlings, decorate pots and undertake small mosaic activities. Patients can learn skills in caring for the plants, growing produce and can then use the produce in a cooking session on the ward, with the scraps going into the new worm farm, also supplied to the ward through the fund.

Kate said, “The gardening and outdoor art program will be a great addition to the current activities on Mallee Ward and will see young people further utilising our beautiful outdoor space.”

“Gardening programs are an excellent way to introduce young people to outdoor-based activities which can assist in the development of new skills that may aid recovery. Additionally, gardening promotes mindfulness which has been proven to reduce stress and improve mood.

“As a play therapist, I am super excited to be able to offer a variety of activities to patients and to be able to promote more time outside in the sunshine is always a plus! I am most looking forward to patients being able to grow their own fruit and vegetables which we can hopefully later use in cooking groups.”

There is increasing evidence that gardening activities and exposure to green space can be beneficial to an individual’s psychological health, assisting in improving mental and physical wellbeing. This project combines gardening with art activities so patients can learn how to grow their own plants and create craft items like pots, mini mosaics and terrariums to take home to their own backyard.

Keeping Lauren’s legacy alive

The WCH Foundation is incredibly grateful to be working with Mario to facilitate this project in the Hospital.

Mario said, “I’m going through a journey of my own trailing back through Lauren’s journey and trying to figure out where the gaps are still in the system today, which is why we’re honouring her in these Wards, because that’s where part of her early journey was.”

“I’m trying to establish her story and help others so that they have some sort of comfort. It’s not about me, but about what she would want and what it would mean to her. She wanted to help others in the same situation.”

Mario said that programs like this that help children in the early stages of their illness are crucial and that the new Mallee Ward is the perfect place for it.

Ultimately, Mario hopes this program will be one way of keeping Lauren’s Legacy going and allowing others to know and remember her.

“This will keep her spirit alive,” he said.

To learn more about the impact of the WCH Foundation’s Arts in Health program, click here

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