A sense of belonging: one amazing garden

6th June 2020 | Alison Turner

Community gardens are a great way to get out in the fresh air, make some new friends and feel a bit closer to nature. But one community garden in Adelaide’s north has done much more than this, creating a shared place of belonging and pride for the area’s refugees.

Amazing Northern Multicultural Services (ANMS) is a social welfare organisation in Davoren Park which provides support to new and emerging communities in northern Adelaide. The organisation started a community garden in 2016, and the venture has been so successful, there are now plans to expand the garden so more people in the community can benefit.

Muhama Yotham, 42, is the chairperson of ANMS. Originally from Burundi, Yotham spent several years in a refugee camp in Tanzania before arriving in Australia in 2005.

“The aim of the garden primarily was to bring the community together, like a social connection,” he says. “Because we theorised that many migrants, especially from an African background at that time in the area, they were somehow isolated or vulnerable. There was not something which they could enjoy, that would bring them together. And we thought a community garden could be the best way to go.”

From little things, big things grow.

When the garden first started, there were perhaps 20 members. Now there are around 100 active members, with even more people coming for special events, such as a working bee, or when the garden’s maize crop – its most popular produce – is ready to be sold.

“People like to eat maize either by boiling, or roasting on the charcoal is really fantastic,” Yotham says. “You know how you can eat corn, that’s how you can eat maize. You can cook it, you can mix it with other vegetable, you can do everything.

“But apart from that, if we have enough left after selling – which usually we don’t have – once dry, [it] can be made into flour. And that flour we cook into a stiff porridge or cake.”

Snatch it while you can: the garden’s maize sells out in a day.

The garden’s maize is so popular, there have even been orders for it coming from people interstate. The group also grows other herbs and vegetables that are not often seen in Australia, such as African eggplant, African chilli and roselle – a plant from the hibiscus family. And now that there are plans to expand the garden to grounds across the road, it’s hoped that the community will be able to grow other fresh foods that hark from the gardeners’ homelands in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Yotham says that the community members are very excited about the success of their venture. A recent article about the garden that was featured on ABC News has even led to someone calling to offer the ANMS more land. But while the popularity of the garden’s produce is a wonderful byproduct of the venture, it’s what the garden represents to the people of Davoren Park that matters most.

“The community members feel belonging, they feel that now this is home,” Yotham says. “They’re not missing anything they are missing before from back home. They are able to get [it] here, which is very, very exciting.

“More important, they feel connected. They feel that they can come together, they can remember what they used to do or eat back home. And so sometimes when we have a festival day, people want to stay there the whole time. They don’t want to go home!”

By the community, for the community.

For Yotham, both the garden and the ANMS are a source of enormous pride.

“I’m very proud that we initiated something which is for community, is made by community for community,” he says. “The ones who are involved, they feel that ownership.

“Personally, I feel that this project, it reminds me how when people are given opportunity or a chance to be able to show their ideas, they can do a lot.”

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