'Zero waste' fund helps to nuture new roots
Putting down roots in a new country has a double meaning for refugees involved in gardening courses run by the Diabetes Project Trust, based in Ōtara.
Through the Trust’s Gardens4Health programme, the new Aucklanders are learning gardening skills to feed and support the health of their families, after months or years in camps with irregular medical care and poor diet - for some, leading to health problems such as heart conditions, diabetes and obesity.
In 2013, the programme received $10,274 from Auckland Council’s Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund, for workshops teaching 125 families to turn their organic waste into soil nutrients.
For many refugees the move to New Zealand was their first opportunity to grow their own food and gain an insight into the waste they created. Sharing the skills of gardening and composting with new Aucklanders allowed a sustainability message to be delivered at the same time.
Project manager Richard Main says learning to use waste as a resource is a new experience for most of the families.
The programme works closely with the Refugee Resettlement Centre in Māngere, where around 750 refugees allocated to New Zealand by the United Nations begin their new lives.
Here, the team of social service facilitators from the group Refugees as Survivors work alongside to translate the seminars into languages of the participants, and to interpret questions and answers.
Since the workshop series, Gardens4Health has supplied additional gardening resources – such as bokashi bins – to the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre garden and early childhood centre, and to Refugee Youth Action Network (RYAN), and in collaboration with Refugees as Survivors is running a new DIY Zero Waste workshop series for up to 120 refugee families to incentivise home-based composting.
The Refugee Resettlement Centre has had community gardens in place since 2009, and the simple act of growing food and managing the garden is proving a source of permanence and achievement for the refugees, helping to offset any negative experiences associated with settling in.
“We have some who sing their crop songs and others who sing hymns in the garden, it’s amazing; we just have so much positivity. They are putting their roots down in a new country, in a new environment, new house and new friends. Everything is new, but what is consistent is this idea of making a start, germinating some seeds so to speak and making a change for the future.”