This article originally appeared in the March/April 2014 issue of Northern Gardener magazine.
The International Institute of Minnesota provides services and programs to meet the needs of refugees. It received a three-year community enrichment grant, and decided to build a garden at the Marion Street Apartments in Roseville, where a large number of refugees from Burma and Bhutan had settled.
Many of the gardeners were farmers in their home countries before being forced out due to war and violence. “These refugees had their way of life taken away from them,” says Elizabeth “Liz” Ross, preferred communities coordinator at the institute. “The gardeners are planting seeds of hope for their new lives; the garden was purposefully named the New Americans’ Community Garden because they want being a refugee to be in their past—they want to move forward while also reclaiming a part of their lives that they lost.”
The garden has become a healing place, as many have suffered mental and emotional trauma. “The location of the garden is quiet and peaceful, and it improves their mental outlook a great deal,” says Liz. “It’s provided a critical need for them as they adjust to their new lives in the U.S.”
After this year when funds run out from the grant, Liz hopes the gardeners can take over coordinating the garden themselves so it can continue to thrive.
But the Minnesota Green program has helped their efforts considerably. “The gardeners have received beautiful plants from places like Gardens of Egan,” says Liz. “The program has been such a great resource for the garden. Donations have been our primary source for plant material.” One profound example of what plants can do.
For more information, contact Elizabeth Ross, 651-647-0191 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.iimn.org.