Kat Lee


22 Mar ‘ 23

From volunteer to director

How I became involved in the Shieling Project

How I became involved in the Shieling Project

In late 2020 I suffered a traumatic head injury which saw my vision and memory impaired for several months.  This ultimately led to my resignation from a post I held very dear. This was somewhat devastating in terms of a sense of loss of professional identity, but it also facilitated both physical recuperation and a period of introspection.  It was here that I determined that I would like to continue to follow my passion for supporting and promoting the holistic health and wellbeing of people. I wanted to focus particularly on children as I was a paediatric nurse and an FE / HE lecturer by trade. But, post head injury, I needed to offer a different type of input based upon my temporary limitations.  


I believe projects that promote feelings of belonging and community are crucial for supporting individual mental health and wellbeing, which is particularly pertinent of course both when considering the scattered rurality of the Scottish Highlands and the data in relation to mental health for the region. 


Within this I see food as a central tenet of community - a means of bringing people together.  I remain deeply interested in the promotion and support of growing, sharing, and being able to access locally grown seasonal produce.     I became actively involved in my local Development Trust and two other local charitable organisations that are linked to either to food production / fruit trees etc or to direct practical support for local crofters (a pilot croft plastic recycling project). The central idea remains to support and facilitate the development of local projects that promote these activities with the beautiful by-product of supporting a sense of socially integrated community. 


A while later I saw an advert on social media asking for volunteers for the Shieling Project as they were expanding to create a sister site in Helmsdale, so I volunteered here too.  I had heard of the project before as I used to live in a neighbouring village to the Struy site, but until volunteering, had not fully appreciated how much the project really feeds into all the areas that I am passionate about – building community, supporting holistic health and wellbeing through grounded and nature connected educative experiences which are linked to the rich history and culture of the Scottish Highlands.   I am a hobby weightlifter (which came in handy for helping clear the site in preparation for the building of the classroom!) and gave the project a day a week for several months, helping with the practical outdoors things, and experiencing for myself the holistic health and wellbeing benefits of working outside, in nature, with a group of volunteers, who became at first a community of practice, and then became a group of friends.   It felt like a natural progression to therefore apply to join the board of directors, although as a very new member I am still finding my feet.

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