Community garden brings hope and relief to recovering women
Claudette Samson has a new morning routine these days.
An early riser, Samson, 53, walks straight to her garden plot and spends the first hour of her day weeding, watering and tending to vegetables.
“It’s a great way to connect with my Higher Power in the morning,” said Samson, sitting on a stool among cucumbers, strawberries and lettuce.
Samson is a resident of the women’s transitional housing of the Charlford House Society. Residents can live there for up to two years after following the organization’s main recovery program.
After six years of abstinence, the loneliness and isolation Samson experienced during the pandemic caused her to relapse.
But today, she feels better than ever thanks in part to a community garden built for her and the nearly 30 residents of Charlford House Rehabilitation and Transitional Housing in Burnaby, B.C.
Gardening supporters say the hobby isn’t just growing vegetables – it’s a mental health boon too.
Jordan Mara, founder of Mind and Soil, a company that sells soil made from worms, jumped at the chance to help with the Charlford House garden when he saw a post about it on a Facebook group from local gardening.
Mara founded her business in December to help people start their gardens so they can experience the mental health benefits of digging in the dirt and watching things grow.
“Gardening has been what I turned to work through a lot of my challenges with anxiety,” Mara said. “I felt how beneficial it could be for mental well-being. And I want to be able to bring it to as many people as possible.
Mara appears to have tapped into the pandemic gardening trend at the right time. He says he blew up one-year planned sales in just four months.
‘It gives them a purpose’
A few months ago, the garden at Charlford’s house was little more than a patch of dirt and a few concrete steps.
Ariel Tait, a residential advisor for the company, says it took a lot of work to prepare the garden beds and transform the small area into an outdoor sanctuary with bird feeders and fruit trees.
She says the organization’s executive director, Miranda Vecchio, first came up with the idea of creating a seed-to-table program that would help residents learn how to grow and cook their own food.
“Gardening is so beneficial in so many ways,” Tait said. “It brings women out and gives them a purpose.”
Outpouring of support
But starting a garden can get expensive, and Charlford House is a non-profit company.
So Tait sought help on a local Facebook page. Donations quickly poured in – seeds, seedlings, tools and more.
Mara from Mind and Soil was one of the first to respond.
He says over the past few months he has donated around $ 700 in starter products like soil, mulch and rocks with help from his community program. He also offered workshops to help women learn to garden.
“The more we can help to do [gardening] accessible to individuals, then we will meet people like Claudette, where it absolutely brings joy to her face and to her day, ”said Mara.
Samson agrees that the garden has helped her on her healing journey, providing a calm and safe space for her to process any feelings she no longer numbs from her addiction.
“The garden is such a peaceful and quiet place,” she says. “I feel amazing. There is hope.”