April 27 – There are not many things simpler than digging holes, planting seeds and watching a garden grow.
Simple yes, but there’s much more than pretty flowers and fresh produce that come out of a garden.
Gardening is nature’s answer to anti-depressants, helping stimulate the “happy” brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine.
According to a recent Discovery Magazine article, microbes in the soil stimulate the release of serotonin while we also get a shot of dopamine harvesting the fruits of our labour.
That’s just one reason why the Lookout Emergency Aid Society, service providers for the homeless in Metro Vancouver, has gardens located in and around some of its shelters and supportive housing. Not only is there a biological benefit from gardening but it also encourages the development of social relationships and community, urges people to be responsible and gives them a sense of purpose.
There are at least four gardens at Lookout facilities and the number is growing. In April, another garden was constructed on the rooftop of the Jim Green Residence on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, thanks to the staff of Fluor Canada.
Now more than 66 tenants at the Green will be able to get their hands dirty and benefit from gardening. While many of the fresh vegetables will be consumed by the tenants, some of the surplus will be delivered to the kitchen at nearby Al Mitchell Place, which serves up daily meals to its 46 shelter guests.
That’s great news to Michelle Leitner, manager of the Al Mitchell Place Shelter and Hazelton Residence. She and Lookout understand the importance of fresh nutritious food.
Most of Michelle’s clients and tenants, like others served by the Lookout Society, suffer either from mental illnesses, physical disabilities, addictions and medical illnesses – many with concurrent disorders. For those who experience homelessness, a healthy diet of nutritious food helps stabilize their lives so they can move forward.
“It’s also proven that healthy fresh food can alleviate many of the side affects people experience from their medications,” says Michelle.
Fluor will be visiting Al Mitchell Place to help build a garden in the building’s courtyard.
“It’s nice to see any space we have converted into garden. This is a great program we can expand wherever we have the space,” she says.
The Lookout Society is helped by thousands of volunteers each year but really benefits when companies like Fluor Canada get onboard.
“We love it when they come to us and say, `What do you need? How can we help?’ That’s the best,” says Michelle.
“This is a group that really wants to engage with the society and the people we help. We can’t get enough of them. We need more groups like Fluor.”