Edna helps nine-year-old Ashkhan* install the tomato plant cage; seven-year-old Adiba looks on as her brother presses firmly onto the tomato cage as Edna secures it to the ground outside the children’s new home. They are among several RST clients, staff and volunteers that have gathered on a drizzly Saturday morning to ensure that a recent refugee community garden set within north Austin is maintained with care. RST Austin's AmeriCorps Development VISTA Megan and Members of Crestview United Methodist Church have worked together to make this day happen so that clients can grow and harvest a portion of their food right in their own backyard. Crestview members have donated tomato cages, while Austin’s Green Corn Project have provided a variety of seed types and compost.
According to Development VISTA Megan, this was the second official day in a potential series of events in which the community around RST can come together to garden, enjoy the outdoors and get to know each other better – but of course, the clients will be able to tend to their garden every day. And it’s the clients – like Ashkhan’s and Adiba’s parents – who in large part have been taking the lead on this project.
Megan said she is “really happy to see our clients and volunteers come together to work on a common goal. Most of the time the volunteers are teaching our clients how to adjust to life in the United States [for example, how to ride the bus], but it is really neat to see our clients teaching the volunteers. Some of the clients had been farmers or grown their own food in their home countries and were giving volunteers tips as they went along. I hope that more of the areas in which Austin’s refugees live can eventually have some plot of land, big or small, so that they too can enjoy a bit of urban farming.”
At the end of the second community garden event, Adiba receives a gift from Crestview volunteer Edna – a watering can. As she takes the gift, Adiba, with a smile and sparkle in her eye, promises that she’s “going to water the garden every day.”
*Some names have been changed to maintain privacy.*