With thunderstorms rumbling outside, today seems like a perfect day to reflect back on the long, tiring, and exciting day that was yesterday.
At 10:00, the first growers arrived. Of course, S Barry and San San were the first. They have been the ones who ask me everyday when the garden will be ready. They were also my go-to refugees when I needed to organize a workday or find out who wanted to grow.
And things were no different yesterday.While I was busy organizing myself, S Barry and San San had showed the other growers where their plots were, handed out their seeds, and began planting. By the time I was ready, the seeds were gone and the growers were in their plots, tools in hand. I was blown away.
(Left)Chin Baung seeds lying on the plot list
(Below) S Barry dividing the Chin Baung for the growers
The Burmese refugees were so excited to have Chin Baung seeds to grow their own plants. Check out our older post about Chin Baung here.
Throughout the day, more refugees came to the garden to begin planting. Some came straight from work. Others waited until their children returned from school. The entire day became one big family activity.
(Below) A few of our future gardeners in action and their parents passing along their farming know-how.
Perhaps the most surprising growers are our 3 Iraqi brothers, Ziyad, Raed, and Ali. They received 3 plots side by side, and they have some big plans. Yesterday, they only had time to plant one of their plots. It probably took all day to plant one plot because they planted more than 50 tomato plants! They plan to fill the other garden with peppers and the 3rd garden with nothing but flowers. I cannot wait until they are finished!
Despite the sun and the heat, the refugees worked tirelessly throughout the day. By 7:00 pm most of the Burmese had prepared and planted their plots and the Iraqi brothers had finished their tomato plot. The refugees had worked so hard and planted so many plants that I had to make 2 trips back to Wilson’s Garden Center to buy more eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers.
Without a doubt, the most encouraging and exciting part of yesterday was to see one of the Columbia Refugee Garden project’s goals emerging. When the idea of the garden was being formed in our minds, our biggest goal was to provide the refugees with something that would reconnect them with their past. Our hope was that the garden could become a familiar place in an unfamiliar land. Yesterday, I saw that happening. We have watched our refugees painstakingly navigate Columbia’s systems. Our refugees have gone to their first job interviews, ridden their first public transportation systems, and visited their first doctor’s offices always with a sense of fear and apprehension. However, yesterday, in their own plots, I have never seen them more sure of themselves and sure of what they need to accomplish. They prepared their soil and planted their seeds and seedlings as if it was their land back in Burma or Iraq. There was a sense throughout the garden of being back home, and that is exactly what we had hoped to accomplish.
Thank you to everyone who helped to make yesterday possible!
Please continue reading as the season has just begun. In a few weeks that seeds will begin to sprout, the seedlings will be much bigger, we will have a new tool shed, and the garden will continue to flourish!
*** Our African refugees were not able to make it to the garden yesterday. A fellow African refugee tragically passed away on Monday evening. If you would like to make a donation to help the family pay for the funeral arrangements, you can go to any Landmark Bank and donate to the Jean Marie Mugabo Memorial Fund.