I have considered myself as being quite fortunate, even though life has presented many challenges. In becoming a grandparent, I knew that I needed to protect them, nurture, care for, and teach them, but I was not sure how. To my surprise, I didn’t need to know, it was them who taught me what I needed to do. In the garden, many stories were told, secrets were shared, safety was created, and love blossomed. In the garden, life looked so different, untouched by disparities, socioeconomic barriers, racial boundaries, or gaps in equity; the garden always gave generously to those who tended it, as they would tend to themselves. This magical and mystical place where everyone was welcome became the focus of my journey. There is power in gardening, and engaging it provides a glimmer of hope that grows alongside the seeds we sow.
It is my desire to share this experience with all children. The garden is the place that can elevate families from hunger, provide nutritious alternative, and is sustainable when tended to with care. Gardens do not need to be grand or even outdoors. Community gardens have been popping up everywhere with a surprising outpouring of volunteers, donations, and instructions. That is my hope for my community. With the influx of people relocating from natural disaster areas into our nearby communities; and the curve ball from the novel corona virus, many of our communities have endured a very serious shift in economic wellness. The neighboring community of South Side Bethlehem is no exception. Donagan Elementary school is entrusted with the care and education of 420 students, having 95% of its population eligible for free lunch. Donovan is not just an elementary school it is a community center, complete with family development specialists, community school coordinators, health clinic, and washers and dryers to facilitate laundering for families that cannot afford the Laundromat. Donagan prepares backpacks of food for the children to take home on Fridays so that they have food for the weekend. Donagan elementary provides the exact curriculum as all other schools in the district, yet they serve a population where English is a second language. (Source: The Morning Call, November 1, 2019). Passion drives the educators here at Donagan, quality education is what they provide, and love is what makes it all come together.
This school could greatly benefit from having a garden. The educational opportunity to teach young children and their families how to grow vegetables, fruits, herb and spices would lend to promote stewardship and leadership. Engaging the students in food preservation and canning will provide the families an opportunity to make the most of the foods they have. Perhaps a full range garden may not be feasible given the space needed to serve 420 students and their families, but if every classroom could have window boxes, then that would be a start, after all it is with a single seed that process takes hold. A garden can give back some of the green space that has been slowly disappearing, a space to grow, socialize and contribute to. In a world filled with fear and uncertainty, it would be a wonderful thing to give children a project they can be proud of, and a skill that can be maintained by the whole family, the whole community.