Refugees Go Green In A New World
The garden is located behind Broadway Christian Church right next to the church's garden. There the refugees live sustainable using old methods in a brand new world.
"We plant tomato and lady finger, some plants and many vegetables," said refugee Hla Twee Fru. Fru used to be a farmer in Myanmar, a country that borders India and China.
While the town and language are new, farming is an old tradition for many refugees.
"This garden kind of gives them something that they know. When they're out here working I've never seen them work with more confidence or do something with more confidence. It's just a part of their way of life that they are finally able to reconnect with," said refugee caseworker and garden organizer Phil Stroessner.
Refugees wouldn't be able to reconnect to their past through gardening without some help. They used to grow plants out of milk jugs cut in half at their homes, but now they have more than 50 plots at the refugee garden to use. The idea for a refugee garden has been around for more than a year, but it all finally came together in June for the first planting.
The garden is free for its international growers. People and organizations in the community donated tools and funding. Broadway Christian Church gave up space in its back yard and pays for the garden's water.
The refugees that grow here are from Myanmar, Iraq and several different African countries. Plots are divided up among them, some friends and some families. At the garden they grow mainly what you would see in the grocery store like tomatoes, egg plant and okra.
"We eat we don't sell yet, if we get a big farm then we can sell," Fru said.
The refugees give the food just to their families and friends for now.
"They're just able to grow their own produce," Stroessner said. "They're not having to spend their money on the produce that they'll find in grocery stores."
Burmese growers like Fru also grow a plant native to their home called chin baung or roselle. They use the plant to make food likes soup.
As the refugees work to adapt to their new world, they do so sustainably.
"I guess it just help them sustain their way of life," Stroessner said. "They had to give up a lot when they came here and this just help them gain a little bit back of what they had to leave behind."
"If we feel something, if we missing some family, we come here. When we saw the tree we got happy," Fru said.
Refugee services in Columbia are working on finding ways to expand the garden by next summer. For more information on the refugee garden or to donate you can visit the garden's blog by clicking the link at the top of the story.