A COMMUNITY group is spearheading several projects to tackle mental health issues in the wake of the pandemic.

The Crafty Hubbers, a group of knitters from Thornton le Dale, near Pickering, has kept themselves busy by knitting, gardening and even connecting with a school in Kuwait.

Thornton Dale C of E Primary School has received a buddy bench from a school in Kuwait, which encourages friendly conversation and talk about their feelings.

The idea came from Denise Rajab, a member of the Crafty Hubbers, who felt inspired by a project in Kuwait which was invaded by Iraq between 1990 and 1991.

“The Crafty Hubbers have been working closely with a school in Kuwait, who has kindly donated a buddy bench to Thornton Dale C of E School,” said Denise.

“In September, we are hoping to join the hand of friendship by joining the two schools in writing to one another and via Zoom talks.

"The buddy benches have become symbols of hope and light-heartedness, designed to encourage community and feelings of openness, both important for mental wellbeing."

The knitting group has also raised more than £2,000 towards mental health projects in the community through the Buddy Bear Appeal.

The Buddy Bear Appeal is similar to a chain letter, with the idea of knitting three bears to pass onto a friend, family member, neighbour or someone who is struggling.

A portion of the funding has been donated to Next Steps Mental Health Resource Centre; a charity in Norton that supports people with mental health issues and supports people to help reduce loneliness and isolation.

The group has also created a wellbeing garden, near the Thornton le Dale car park, and is campaigning for another buddy bench in the centre of the village.

The latest project, fronted by Dorothy Ashton with the support of Ryedale Carers Support Manager, Claire Hall, will be fundraising to purchase eight computer tablets for Ryedale Carers Support.

“In our community alone, we have seen a huge rise in mental health,” added Denise.

“We have supported Next Steps and provided a buddy bench to The Hall Residential Care Home, which will be open to all the community.

"The wildflower seeds have been sown and we are hoping that by the summer, the wellbeing garden will be ready for use.

“We are hoping this will encourage and help those who are suffering with loneliness to engage in conversation with others.”