Friday, November 14, 2014
Community Garden Update: Laughter is the Best Medicine
Thank you to Corina Solis, our new Garden Project Coordinator Intern for this blog post. Corina is a recent Master of Environmental Management graduate, visiting from San Antonio, Texas.
We had another productive workday at the San Antonio Palopo Community Garden last week. Our medicinal garden is increasing in surface area with the addition of more used tire planters, and is ready for planting during our upcoming medicinal herbs class. Each workday leaves the garden more beautified than the last, and yet I’ve perceived something even more satisfying with each visit: laughter. There is constant giggling among the women, be it the result of something big or small. Someone loses grip of a tire and it rolls over to the other side of the garden, or Becky, our Garden Coordinator, admits she is not married, which sounds extraterrestrial to our young mothers. And sometimes, there are giggles when we probe the mothers for desires of their own, as if a reminder not to start believing they can actually happen.
The power of how frequently the garden is overcome with laughter can only be understood from the backdrop that we are working in. Considering the fluxes that indigenous women experience in safety, health, and financial security, there is evidence* from around the Lake Atitlan region that depression and anxiety are at an unfortunate high*. Indigenous women feel hopeless as they alone face issues like domestic violence and poverty*. To make matters worse, mental illness is not a priority in Guatemala, where less than 0.05% of the entire health budget is allocated to mental health outside of mental health facilities. The purpose of the garden program has a key focus on nutrition, but Mayan Families also hopes to leverage the potential of the garden as a community mental health resource* where there exists limited mental health infrastructure. Mayan Families is aware of the stress-relieving and confidence-building qualities of gardening and the assurance that comes from creating community. While we are still in the pilot phase of this project, the emergence of something as simple as laughter is not lost on us.
This week, the women expressed the desire to plant their own amaranth, onions, and tomatoes when they receive their home box gardens at the end of the program. Punctuated by laughter, our discussion is evidence of our participants’ dreams for the future. In a community that endures certain economic hardships without a safety net, this is kind of hope tells us that this garden is doing much more than growing vegetables.
We invite you to help us continue to grow more potentially life-changing herbs and food by donating to our Grow Your Dollar Campaign, so that we can purchase the land that these women have come to love.
To learn more, please contact email@example.com.
*Sources for above research: