Students Growing in Greensboro Refugee Garden

Margaret Evans | October 14, 2014

Refugee youth working in the garden. Photo: Sadie Payne

Refugee youth working in the garden. Photo: Sadie Payne

The CWS Refugee Community Garden project in Greensboro, North Carolina, provides spaces which offer serenity and foster opportunity for refugees.

Shortly following the conclusion of the summer season in the United States, CWS’s community garden project shifted towards a new approach, involving collaboration with the 4-H Youth Development section of CWS partner, the NC State University and NC Agricultural and Technical State University Guilford County Cooperative Extension.

The CWS Refugee Community garden project is directed by a staff member at the local CWS office in Greensboro, and is coordinated weekly with the help of Karen Neil, Extension Agent and Agriculture and Urban Horticulture specialist, Sadie Payne, Extension Agent and 4-H Youth Development Program Coordinator and dedicated social work intern, Anne Atkins-Bostick.

There are currently eight youth, from Sudan, Tanzania, Libya and Vietnam. The urban 4-H program teaches youth new skills, encourages individuals to serve their communities and includes lessons in entrepreneurship in hopes that youth gain the knowledge and experience that helps them feel empowered, and become responsible citizens and future leaders.

When asked to share thoughts on working with refugees in the community and the garden project, Karen Neill mentioned, “It’s important to recognize that we do have to reiterate with this audience, who are coming from different countries, the different types of soil that they now find themselves growing in, and the types of plants that differ from plants found in their home country. We spend time with the group helping them to understand the soil, what makes it different and how that affects the plants ability to grow, like pH and water movement. We also spend time talking about seasonality and how we have three growing seasons in North Carolina, two of which are similar but that the third is very different.”

Refugee youth working in the garden. Photo: Sadie Payne

Refugee youth working in the garden. Photo: Sadie Payne

Sadie Payne added, “Their biggest desire is to learn so that they can teach others in their community to grow food for their families and to donate to those in need. This says so much about these high-schoolers. When most American youth are thinking about cars and personal goals, these young individuals are thinking of others in a very deep way. Their enthusiasm is contagious in the garden. Some of them come from farming families and know the basic principles of gardening but just need to be taught about gardening in this climate. Others have never used a shovel or planted anything before. They become each other’s support as they chat happily in Arabic and English.”

An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” With World Food Day approaching on October 16, I am thankful to be reminded of the value and significance of food throughout the world, and the impact that community garden and small-scale farm projects have in the lives of refugee youth, families and resettlement communities.

Margaret Evans is the Refugee Special Cases Coordinator for CWS.