Mental Health Picnic/ Celebration in the Garden!

On Saturday July 23rd, the Philadelphia Refugee Mental Health Collaborative, a collaboration between Lutheran Children and Family Services (LCFS), HIAS and Council and Nationalities Service Center (NSC), organized a celebration at Growing Home. The event was designed and spearheaded by LCFS’s Mental Health Specialist, Melissa Fogg. BuildaBridge, a Philadelphia organization that uses art as a healing tool for individuals and communities, was also there to kick off their upcoming mental health programming with the families.

The event was a huge sucess. Nearly all of the refugee families were there, in addition to some new faces as well. At one point over 80 people were there. Despite the heat, everyone had a great time!

Many people played in sprinklers, harvested from the farm, tasted many different vegetables and herbs growing there, relaxed in the shade, played games with the children, covered the sidewalks in chalk, and much more. Families brought out an astounding array of food from rice pudding (kheer) to spicy eggs, dried fish, salads, and many other delicious items.

In the end, the Nepali families sang folk songs. A group of about 20 men, women and children sang in unison, clapped, and began to dance. Some cried in  joy and said it was just like being back in the village!

While Growing Home is a space to grow healthy food, it has much more become about uniting people and providing a community space. Every day, many elders and children gather in the garden to water the plants, chat, and meet new families. Despite language barriers, Bhutanese youth play with Burmese youth. Cucumbers are cut and shared among all families at the tables (they rarely make it out of the garden). Recipes are exchanged and some women explain to others which weeds are edible. NSC’s farm manager, Adam, has said that he has learned that practically every weed which grows can be cooked in a Nepali curry!