Here are some stories from participants in the Opportunity Gardens program:
(names changed to protect the privacy of the participants)
Jane was so excited to get into her own home and have a yard of her own after living in an apartment. She explained that her container plants inspired her to have a bigger garden to share more food with her friends and family. Jane also explained how she use to “run around and drink” and so her garden keeps her busy and “off the streets and out of trouble.” Her friends and family are thankful for the bounty, too.
George does many activities in order to have a new and greater purpose in life. He used to be in a gang and had been in prison for a total of 30 years over his lifetime. He now believes gardening is a means of empowerment. Spending time with George is inspirational and rewarding. He helps his community have food and young kids have school supplies as well as many other civic volunteering activities.
Ling came to America from China for work and her mother came to help her raise her daughter. Suzi, her mother, was a farmer from rural China; she felt out of place in a small 2nd floor apartment here in Columbia. They reached out to CCUA for mentoring and tools. With help from a friend in the community, she has access to yard space. She now is happily gardening in a 20’x20’ plot where she is discovering the differences and similarities between the environment and plants of America and China. She says she feels more at home now and has a big smile on her face when we see her.
Gordon is in his late 50s and just recently started gardening because he heard on the radio how good it was for you. He loves collard greens and only wanted to try growing those first. He’s now doing great with collards and even has branched out to growing tomatoes, garlic, and onions! Gordon tells us that he feels great taking care of himself and making sure he eats his vitamins to prevent cancer and heart disease.
We are helping a half-way house with their garden where residents learn gardening skills and eat food from the garden – some of them for the first time. Residents take pride in their garden and like to show it off to visitors. Many didn’t originally believe they could grow a garden, but later told CCUA staff that they are more confident in their skills and are happy to have fresh food to eat.