Healing in the Garden

During the stressful times of COVID-19, the Sprouts Gardening Committee—formed by young adults in the LIFE Project Program—has become a healthy outlet and opportunity for personal growth.

When shelter in place orders took effect in Tarrant County, this meant many of the young adults had to put plans for their future on hold, like going to job interviews. They were faced with uncomfortable uncertainties, and the garden became a way for the young adults to relieve their frustrations by giving back and volunteering their time. While spending time in the garden, they are able to put their worries aside and focus on the plants they are caring for. 

Gardening brings about healing and a sense of belonging, which is incredibly beneficial for the young adults in our care—many of whom come from a life in foster care or homelessness. Cultivating the garden, feeling connected to nature and each other, and focusing on the growth of a plant, helps build their self-confidence. 

More than anything, taking the time to learn different gardening techniques, and skills promotes self-efficacy—the ability to feel empowered and in control of a productive project— within the young adults. This growing confidence is what ACH seeks to implement within all the youth we serve. 

For Alex, Sprouts Gardening Committee member, the garden has shown her and the other members that if they encourage themselves, and believe they can achieve a goal, they will.

“We want this to succeed,” said Alex. “Even if it gets challenging and there are a lot of obstacles, you have to keep pushing through.” 

Digging for a Deep Meaning to Gardening

The Sprouts Gardening Committee, or Sprouts for short, is digging deeper. They’ve been working on growing more plants, utilizing garden techniques, and turning every step of the way into a chance to learn.

Sprouts meets every Thursday afternoon for a learning session and discussion. “Conversations on gardening often lead to addressing life skills that are important for personal growth,” said Cassie Morgan, a LIFE Project mentor and Sprouts Gardening Committee leader.

One of these discussions included how plants can form bonds, just like us.  

“We discussed several techniques related to companion gardening and which plants grow best together,” said Cassie. “This opened up conversations to discuss how we need healthy friendships and relationships to really grow well and it gave us the opportunity to talk about what a good friend looks like.”

During a conversation about removing weeds from the garden, Sprouts also talked about unhealthy relationships and the effects they can have on our life.

“We also discussed how to set up healthy boundaries and how to keep toxic people from hurting us,” said Cassie.

Cultivating the Garden Club

The LIFE Project is a supervised independent living program here at ACH that promotes self-sufficiency in young adults, ages 18-21, who are homeless or are in extended foster care. 

The Sprouts Gardening Committee was formed in April after Alex and a few other members of the LIFE Project noticed that the Wichita garden, created by volunteers, need a little TLC. 

Alex had only planted a few seedlings at the time, but with encouragement from Cassie, and LIFE Project mentor Stephanie Henry, she decided to take on the task of maintaining and caring for the campus garden.

"They apparently think I have a green thumb,” Alex joked.

From there, the Sprouts Gardening Committee was formed with Alex and a few other young adults from the LIFE Project, who wanted to volunteer their time to add more beauty to the campus. In April alone, the committee volunteered a total of 27 hours!

“The first thing that caught me off guard was the more people that wanted to join the committee and join this journey,” said Alex. “That was very surprising, especially from some of the boys.”

RTC Lends a Helping Hand

The Residential Treatment Center (RTC) helps vulnerable youth ages 13-17 in the foster care system who need time away from home to heal from trauma and rebuild trust in adults. 

The committee itself is growing too. Young adults from ACH’s Residential Treatment Center are going to start getting involved, thanks to Alex. Richard Capodagli, Director of the RTC, saw our previous blog on Sprouts and asked Alex if the RTC youth could join the committee. Alex and the committee were more than happy for more members!

Youth in the RTC are often dealing with overwhelming emotions from past trauma, and the healing benefits from gardening will be helpful in their journey here at ACH.  

“We definitely hope that it can inspire other groups to get involved,” said Cassie. “We want to partner with more groups on campus to make it a success.”

Looking Ahead

Alex is excited to see how the garden turns out and hopes that everyone at ACH will be able to benefit from it.

“It may not be blossoming as much as we want it to, but at least the garden is something that we worked hard for, and that’s enough for me,” she said. “It’s amazing to know that gardening will help us in the future, and we can always regrow, and flourish even more.”

The group does have an overall goal of arranging flowers they’ve grown to form the letters ACH, as well as adding colorful bricks, and a birdbath to beautify the garden.

“We just want to make it something we worked for and were proud of and other people can see it and get inspired too,” she said.

However, Alex said there is one other thing she had hopes to see come from the garden.

“Watermelons!” 

And it happened!

Help Sprouts Grow!

The Sprouts Gardening Committee needs help from our community to continue flourishing!

We are currently asking for in-kind donations that include seeds, plants, soil, and gardening tools. For the safety of our clients, all donations must be new and unopened and through appointment only.

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