How would the lives of people in a community be improved by having Our Heart Gardens open up? The effect of opening a primary Our Heart Gardens (OHG or the Gardens), projected about three years, is discussed below; first on the people it will help most, and most visibly, and then on four families in different communities in Kamloops.
People don’t always live with a family, sometimes by choice, sometimes not; many of their needs can be satisfied at OHG:
- Man, 26, works long hours and has no time to find friends – comes to be with others, get a good meal (better than going to the bar!) and he’s met a nice girl!
- Woman, 35, works hard all day and misses her family but the job is here – comes to get her hair cut, do her laundry and laugh with the ladies in the Moon Room
- Boy, 17, kicked out of home – came to eat, find a place to sleep and something to do
- Girl, 19, pregnant and beaten – came for sanctuary and help
- Man, 65, fixed income, rent increased so needs to access rental lists, lonely, hungry – finds a friend to share a place!
- Woman, 72, lonely – came to share her story, wisdom gleaned in her long life. She has time and money and likes to be a part of things. Buys her meals at OHG because they’re good and she doesn’t have to cook. Casinos take her money & give nothing.
- Young Man, 19, takes meds for Clinical Depression and cannot hold a job because of side-effects and appointments – finds the atmosphere uplifting and he’s feeling better, no extra appointments needed. He’s hopeful…
- Young Woman, 23, broken home, broken life – comes to a place that welcomes her, gives her something to do and helps her find her way.
In the centre of the city, downtown, the atmosphere has changed – no panhandlers or people hopelessly sitting on the sidewalks, no people with nowhere to go and nothing to do. The Welfare office doesn’t have line-ups anymore… where is everybody?
- some go to the downtown Our Heart Gardens to access services or volunteer for gardening or city maintenance tasks
- some are up at the Sa-Hali OHG where Grandfather Weston tells stories, and they can access services there too.
- coffee with breakfast draws people in, and once in, they can wash up, do laundry, stash their stuff and participate!
- some do the things they used to do when they worked for money, or teach it (acting, tutoring, baking)
- provide support to the staff of Our Heart Gardens
- get and give help to others.
Live in Valleyview, new family, husband works at Hydro; mother stressed by baby, no outside contact, money issues, health concerns
She takes the bus (using bus pass earned yesterday) first thing after husband goes to work so she can have breakfast at the Gardens. While she learns good management/people skills, supporting volunteers in the day’s tasks, the baby stays with the Aunties in the child-care centre (free if she’s working there). Getting good healthy food, she is able to breastfeed her little one, good value! She enjoys working in the happy atmosphere where the bottom line is not the focus, and she likes the idea of encouraging people instead of pushing them. She especially likes contact with people and being close to her baby.
He takes the bus to work (using pass earned yesterday) where he manages the contracts that bring alternative power sources to the grid. After work, he joins his family at OHG. He likes to use his muscles after sitting all day so helps move planters, mix soil or works out in the POP (Power of People – gym with machines that convert his effort into power). He enjoys the speakers that educate or entertain them while they eat supper, and afterwards there’s lots of different ways of socializing. He’s glad there’s something cheap to do that’s fun. Paying a reasonable rate once a month covers all the suppers and the work outs and the fun, and helps to keep Our Heart Gardens running. For others, without work, different arrangements are made but it’s not important to him – they are all the same, working together at Our Heart Gardens!
They’ve been unable to find a family doctor so having access to the drop-in paramedics, nurses, nutritionist, herbalist, chiropractor and naturopath students has been very good; he’s been able to avoid medical issues that could have benched him. Knowing that his family is safe and happy, eating good food with good people, relieves his concerns and all symptoms of Clinical Depression have disappeared – it’s surely the atmosphere but is it the positive vibes or the effects of the bacteria that lives in the dirt that makes the air smell so good? Either way, it works for him – and it works for everyone!
When they go home, there’s lots of others on the bus, people from the Garden and others, even though it’s late… Since ridership has increased the buses are more frequent and the people on them are happier too, so more people use them.
The Weston Family
In Brocklehurst a single mother with 6 month old twin girls and a 2 year old son share a 1 bdrm apartment with her First Nations grandfather-in-law; nobody brings in a paycheque, both are diabetic. She was an honour student with plans to become a doctor but got pregnant at 17. The father stood by them but was recently killed in a car accident after having a couple of drinks after work and there’s no insurance money.
While she dislikes being on Welfare, there’s really no choice until she’s worked long enough at OHG to be able to get a reference. She tries hard to get there early so everybody can be fed and settled before she starts work but things happen, so sometimes they’re later than she likes but OHG doesn’t watch the clock. The babies are left with Grandfather or the child care centre until she’s finished work. First she helps Mrs. Easter manage the tasks for the day until it’s time to make lunch; then she lends the chef a hand with food preparation, has a bite to eat herself, then helps in the Community Kitchen handling the food collected or gleaned for the Food Hub. She’s learning how to run her own kitchen some day, or will take classes to become the doctor she dreamed of being, but that decision doesn’t have to be made yet. She’s young, and so are the kids.
She’s been seeing a grief counsellor once a week. The support she gets from the counsellor, along with being a part of the OHG community, is comforting and helps to keep her family together. She’s been urged to think of others, to take her out of herself and her troubles, and when she listens in the sharing circles, she forgets her broken heart. It’s helped her confidence to share how she feels, and people treat her better now they know her.
Grandfather Weston watches the kids or teaches carving. After supper, he drums for the circle and tells stories, shares his culture and wisdom – the kids just love him! Having people around keeps him stimulated as does being a member of the Elders Council. It’s been a source of great satisfaction, first that he was elected and now, that he is valued highly.
After lunch he takes a nap in the lounge and then teams up with a couple of young people for a half hour to walk the place, providing a welcome to new people or a calming influence should discord arise. It gives him a reason to go for that walk everybody’s supposed to get everyday, and allows him to get to know some of the young people. Having two to walk with him, one can go for assistance should it be needed. Hasn’t needed it yet, but it’s good to be prepared!
She goes home early with the children so they can get to bed and she gets the place to herself. She takes a well-earned long soak in her tub – yes, hers, because everybody else baths at the Garden. She enjoys bathing there too because she loves getting her back washed, and the towels are so fluffy. A little luxury to warm her heart, to help her remember the pleasures of being alive!
The whole family uses the nurses and the doctor that drops in once a week. He created a diabetic clinic to deal with all the people with the same kind of issues. It’s become a club, like AA, where everybody gives everybody else support and help. The doctor has been pleasantly surprised at how well people are, especially because of the peer support in the club, and getting diabetic-appropriate meals!
Grandfather comes home and sleeps on the couch, happy after a long day and quiet bus ride home. He doesn’t miss the excitement of the years he spent in bars now he has a good place to go that appreciates him. He sleeps well, though not for long… You don’t when you’re old and happy!
2 car family in Westsyde, father/mother both work, 2 teenagers – 1 in sports, the other a problem, live on land that flooded so house needs costly repairs
She works part-time in a grocery store. It’s hard to find full time work as she never knows when they’re going to call her in for an extra shift, and the money is needed. But she can drop in to work at OHG anytime and, for a few hours of quiet transplanting or weeding, she can take produce home and bus tickets for the next day and avoid using the car. She’s looking forward to when they open the Westsyde Our Heart Gardens!
He works shift-work at the mill and it’s hard work. He used to stop at the bar on the way home but now he meets his wife at OHG, works out and learns how to carve, something his father did but didn’t teach him. Free lessons makes it affordable and it’s good to be around happy people! Sometimes the entire family eats dinner there because the food is good, the atmosphere is congenial and there’s stuff to do after dinner – like dishes! But his hands are soft now, and his wife likes that.
Daughter is struggling in school but loves grass hockey; time after school is spent on the field and twice a week she goes to the Sweet<3 Cafe*, a place in OHG for teens to gather, where a tutor helps her with math and English. Seeing how math is used every day in calculating everything, she has learned the value of math, and hearing the way the storytellers weave words, she’s turned herself around in the last 6 months. In the Cafe, a group of young people are working towards a Camp Unci Maka* (Grandmother Earth) summer holiday, where they go out to learn Indigenous ways to live on the land, ceremony, respect and connection with the Earth.
* interesting expressions of interest received, value noted!
Son has stopped hanging out with the bad crowd – actually, they’ve all started coming to the Gardens and it turns out they weren’t bad after all. They just didn’t have anything good to do! Now they’re all thick as thieves up at the Gardens, working out in the POP and just making eyes at the girls, well chaperoned as they are. They’re putting on some muscle and learning good ways from the Elders – they’ll make good husbands and fathers some day.
Up in Sa-Hali, a temple-going Hindu family with room-and-board students of Thompson Rivers University (TRU). Grandparents live separately, in Riverbend and in long-term care for Alzheimer’s
Stay-at-home Mom has felt isolated since the kids started going to the Gardens after school. While she’s shy, she decided to see where her children went; they always come home laughing and bright-eyed. It was good to get her hands back in the dirt again. Too busy, they had hired a gardener a few years back. The nice woman at the Garden told her they would consider planting the crops she was used to, and was interested in seeing the baskets she wove as a girl. It would be so wonderful to be able to pass on that skill; it’s not hard but you need to pay attention at first, and a quiet corner in the Garden is perfect for it, or the Moon Room, that special room where menstruating women can get away and be themselves, be pampered, eat, dance and share with other women the stories of their lives, their joys and sorrows. She was told it’s very popular, especially with women who work at the City who get time away from their jobs during their cycle to volunteer at the Gardens and spend time in the Moon Room. It’s made a huge difference in the attitudes and atmosphere at the City Hall!
She’s loyal to her temple but it seems more like work now, with so many gone. The new priest has inquired about OHG and she suggested he might speak to the Elders about talking at dinner sometime, and join the sharing circles. It’s hard to attract new people these days but she could use some help; maybe he can find some there, but he’s not supposed to “preach”, just talk about the good things they believe and do, and the history of the religion – or his own!
The kids go to the Gardens after school to help plant, transplant or tend the outside plants, clean up and listen to Grandfather Easter tell stories. If they help out, they get tasty meals and bus tickets to get home and back again. What’s especially good is that they don’t have to have any money to have a good time. The school is considering starting one on school property and that would be great because no travel time, but they’d miss the stories and being with the people they’ve come to know here. Knowing the bus will connect them makes it easier.
Visiting the children’s grandparents includes a once a month visit to Papa who has Alzheimer’s and twice a month to Grandma, living in Riverbend. She still visits Papa almost daily but he hardly recognizes her anymore so it’s disheartening. It was suggested that she bring Grandma with her sometimes so she can enjoy the children. If she wants to come more often she may be able to take the proposed dedicated bus – OHG has become so popular a schedule has become necessary.
Staying with strange people who eat strange foods is a challenge when it’s your first time away from home and TRU students find the Gardens to be a welcome alternative, as well as it being part of their classroom. To see the positive results of so manystudents’ innovative work, like the POP, and to work with some who’ve been there since it started and just won’t leave is a testament to the integrity of the concept. The entry art piece was by a TRU student with only a few guidelines – it had to be grand, it had to show how bulrushes clean the water they live in (you put dirty water in here… and it comes out clean here…) and, if they showed the life cycle and usages of the plant, they’d get extra credit. The contest was open to the public, but it was a TRU student that won! Was it because of all the research they did on the bulrushes and how to cultivate it? Now we havebaskets we wove ourselves, diapers don’t go to the landfill and we have great compost! The cattails stand until we gather them and taste great steamed. All those little tiny seeds can be ground fine like flour or planted and become 6-8′ tall plants! Or eaten when they’re sprouts or leek-like. The roots are like potatoes and new shoots will grow again next year; just thin them out! There’s a wide range of projects available to put one’s mind to, as well as easy quantitative tasks like measuring the size of plants after 1, 2 and 6 months. Chef students are forever trying new ways to cook bulrushes and the other crops grown at the Gardens.Psychology, nursing and engineering students all get hands-on experience and enjoy the opportunity to interact with such a diverse community.
Do you see yourself in any of these profiles, these situations? Please share with us how an Our Heart Gardens in your community, your town or your city could help. Come and tell us in Contact Us.