In recent weeks, you may have noticed a new addition at your local farmers market. Chances are, they were among the 1,000 homeless and trafficked youth who seek refuge at Covenant House Georgia each year.
The youth at the farmers market, often accompanied by Cullen “Slim” Brown, who maintains the gardens and teaches participants about native plants and sustainability, are part of CHGA’s new program, Help Us Grow – a gardening social enterprise.
CHGA began selling starter plants to community gardens and gardeners across the city. Now, they’re a regular feature at markets, too.
Sales from this enterprise sustain their expanded gardening program. In addition to integrating the gardening program into the itinerary for all youth, CHGA also has a gardening leadership academy. This academy is both vocational and educational, as youth are learning about farming, business, sustainability, and nutrition. The goal of this program is to teach transferable life skills, introduce an alternative career path, and broaden youth horizons with discussions of the environment.
“HUG is about giving homeless youth the opportunity to grow nutritious food for themselves and others while learning vocational skills that will help them to live independently,” said CHGA Executive Director Allison Ashe. “It’s also a form of recreational therapy, allowing our youth to relieve their anxiety and depression through caring for the plants. The HUG gardening program is having an incredible impact on our youth, and we hope to continue strengthening it in order to reach more youth who can benefit from these skills.”
Participants in the program spoke about trying new things, learning to care for others, as well as environmental protection.
In short, they are learning vital skills to sustain themselves, and our planet.
And in a few short months, it will be time to turn over the garden and prepare for a new season. This time around, consider helping CHGA.
For more information about HUG, visit CHGA’s website here.