In the first season of Growing Home we were very lucky to have incredible interns and volunteer support. Sixty-five volunteers from outside the refugee community worked a total of nearly 800 hours during the year. Our best help cam from two interns who completed an educational internship. Angella came from Arcadia’s International peace and Conflict Resolution program. Without her help we would not have been able to have such a successful summer and fall. Angella always came with a smile, willingness to get dirty, and amazing ability to pick up languages.
Below you can read her reflections from a season at Growing Home!
I started an internship at NSC’s Growing Home project in August. I was meant to fulfill a certain number of hours as part of the requirements for Arcadia University’s graduate program in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. I quickly reached that number, but found that I didn’t want to stop going down to that special spot in South Philly where refugees from various backgrounds were growing food, finding joy, and creating community. After spending a year at school and learning some things about the challenges and intricacies of refugee resettlement, it was a real privilege to be a part of that process and gain so much more perspective than I had before. I learned, firsthand, that the life of a refugee is hard. I also learned that happy moments can be facilitated, and should be, because they in turn allow people in tough situations to smile, breathe easy for a moment, imagine more happy moments in the future, and work toward that simple goal.
The Growing Home project created a space filled with an activity that nurtured people’s connection to where they live, and to the people they live with. Some of my favorite moments were the field trips we took to the beach and to a local farm. It was encouraging to see that the energy and interest that was created within the garden was strong enough to carry through into new, different settings. The participation in growing food and maintaining a garden translated into participation in experiencing exciting new things together, like seeing the Atlantic from the shores of New Jersey and trying to fathom just how big that body of water is. We were also able to take a trip to a local farm where two busloads of refugees got to wander through an orchard, picking baskets of apples and picnicking together in a field, enjoying a beautiful fall day surrounded by a rural landscape very different from the urban environment where the refugees live and work now.
I not only made friendships with lovely, vibrant people during my internship, I felt like I was part of a big family, and that’s the effect I think the Growing Home project has on its participants. There are many who might think that a garden and some field trips are not important factors in a refugee’s life, in the scheme of things. I think I learned that the important thing is just that- building a “scheme of things” that involves more than just figuring out where to work and how to pay rent. The point is to facilitate growing a multi-dimensional life that includes richness, texture and fun. These things are easy to underestimate, but without them life becomes much less fulfilling, when in fact the point of resettlement is to offer a better life to people who have been denied that chance before. Through my experience with the project, I can see very clearly that Growing Home helps implement this important mission, and I’m excited to have been even a small part of such important work.