The River Garden Project, Auchincruive – 11 September 2018

The River Garden Auchincruive project, which opened in Spring 2018, is a residential training and social enterprise development centre for people in the early stages of recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction, modelled on the three most successful and transformative, self-help organisations for people in recovery across the globe. They are San Patrignano (Italy),  Basta (Sweden) and Delancey Street (USA), which have been producing successful results helping people into long-term recovery, reintegrating them into employment and mainstream society. Ayr Rotary Club invited trustee, Mark Bitel, to speak to its members on the challenges and progress of the unit. He previously worked for the Scottish Government in the Drugs Policy Unit.


Inspired by these international successes, Mark brought together a group of people to set up a recovery community in Scotland that supports people to live a drug and alcohol-free life. After a four-year search, the walled garden at Auchincruive was acquired and the River Garden Project was on its way and is based on the principles of abstinence, trust, firm boundaries, mutual support, social enterprise, respect for life, and responsibility. Participants receive training and social support in a range of social enterprise activities to create a visitor destination using the existing refurbished gardens, and establishing a café, bakery, garden nursery, and fresh food for sale and processing, alongside other craft industries on site, and eventually expanding business activities to the wider community. “It’s not rehab” said Mark, there are strict rules. Also, he continued, it is free, self-referring, insisting on total abstinence upon admission and applicants must be motivated to enter a long term programme. Currently there are 10 residents and the demand for places is extremely high. Mark said their residency target is 40 and the aim is for the unit to be self financing within 7 years.

Club Secretary, Craig Wilson presented Mark with a Treasure Chest cheque to the value of £200 and Harry Peters gave a well deserved vote of thanks.