Billy McLeod of River Garden, Auchincruive,

Billy McLeod the interim General Manager at River Garden Auchincruive was our speaker on Tuesday evening. He opened by stating they help people to leave behind their drug and alcohol addiction through a model of recovery that is refreshingly different. Based on the most successful self help charities across the globe at San Patrignano in Italy, Basta in Sweden and Delancey Street in USA, not only are residents given much needed time to reflect on their lives and to grow and flourish, but they are given the means to do so through the communal support of their peers and their participation in on-site social enterprises, working shoulder to shoulder with other residents. Over the 3 years they are resident, they are key partners in a model of social entrepreneurship, of education, of rehabilitation and the opportunity for transformative change. River Garden is exciting and full of hope. For new residents, no mobile phones are allowed, although family members can call in on a land line. Billy firmly believes that any activity, if carried out with passion combined with training to develop competence, can become a key for reintegration to society and the signs so far are optimistic. Four of their residents have recently graduated and are living independently and working in their chosen fields. They all maintain close ties with River Garden and give active support to current residents as well in turn as being encouraged and supported by them.

The active and full participation of all residents is essential for their own recovery journey and to contribute to the economic sustainability of the IFDAS charity and entire social enterprise that is River Garden, Auchincruive

“We exist” continued Billy, “to give people the chance to turn their lives around, recognising their talents and growing their skills so that their lives can have meaning and purpose”. This mission is made so much more urgent in the context of the shockingly high year on year increases in drug and alcohol deaths in Scotland, which continues to have by far the highest drug death rate recorded by any country in Europe, and a rate more than three times that of England and Wales.  Alcohol-specific deaths continue also to rise at an alarming rate in Scotland, increasing 17% in 2020 from 2019 and the highest number registered since 2008.

Paul and Billy McLeod

Everything they have achieved so far has depended on donations large and small. Their residents do not pay to attend River Garden and none of their places are state sponsored and yet said Billy, there are ambitious plans to achieve a target of 50 residents over the next three years.

Paul, a current resident and now employee of River Garden, delivered a passionate and resonating speech on his past difficult life and current zest for living.

Allan McFarlane gave a worthy vote of thanks