Living: Focus on Youth: Flemingdon Park’s Youth Peace Garden
Several years ago, a group of young people approached the Flemingdon Health Centre with the idea of creating a peace garden in Flemingdon Park.
The project began in September of 2005 and included over 50 high school aged youth from the area in planning, building and planting the new youth community peace garden. The kids involved have been able to receive the community service hours they require for their high school graduation by participating in this project, although many have donated far more than their required 40 hours of community service and continue to participate in garden-related activities.
Grown from scratch by the young volunteers, the garden is filled with flowers, vegetables and herbs and is close to the hearts of many of the youth.
Creation of this fabulous outdoor space has helped create alternatives to the violence in their neighbourhood. Working together from different cultures, the kids tend to focus on their similarities rather than their differences.
One enthusiastic 16 year old boy reports, “We like working in the garden because it is a rewarding experience in that we know we are doing something positive in the community. We look forward to going into the garden because we get plenty of fresh air and exercise and we learn about teamwork because we need to cooperate with each other to complete the garden.”
The youth volunteers are very proud of not just their vision – but what they have created from that vision.
One of the girls pointed out the practical aspects of project. She says the project is “.different because we grow stuff. We’ve taken chives and basil home; we cook with them. When we have breaks in the garden, we add herbs to our snacks.” They not only get to enjoy the fruits of their labours themselves – they get to share them with their families.
The experience of working in the peace garden has given many young people their first taste of real work experience. One boy testifies to this, saying, “I am learning new skills for different jobs. I like the experience, the hours and learning about plants – which are basic skills to have.”
The skills they have developed include not just gardening, but landscaping, teamwork and event planning. The project also provides leadership opportunities.
The success of the project has demonstrated to many of youth in Flemingdon Park that by being proactive by actually doing things rather than just talking about them, they can create positive change in their community. Their accomplishments provide a welcome change from the stories usually heard in the news.
In August 2006, Flemingdon Health Centre officially launched the Flemingdon Youth Garden Festival at 150 Grenoble Drive, outside of the Flemingdon Community Centre. The festival featured a talent show, sports tournaments and over 50 very happy and satisfied high school students.
Projects like this are a great way for young people to contribute to their community at the same time as they learn new skills and develop an enthusiastic and ambitious attitude. And it teaches them that they really can make a difference to their surroundings and circumstances. These positive life lessons can be carried with them for the rest of their lives and will help to prepare them for even more successes.