August 1, 2019

Connections sprout as West Auckland community gives gardening the green thumbs up

A Glenavon community hub is fostering connections through a united interest in growing vegetables. Last September, Tevita and his mother Annuncia were one of 30 families who signed up to the Glenavon community hub, helping rake leaves and build a raised garden bed. Since then, Tevita has returned weekly, learning different plant species, how to grow vegetables and most recently, installing a number of garden beds at his family’s home.

The Glenavon Backyard Garden Project supports the Glenavon community to both discover and nurture their passion for gardening through not only providing sustenance for the gardeners but for the wider community. Hub Coordinator, Eva Wongchiu, explains.

“Gardening teaches lessons beyond the fundamentals of how to grow and harvest vegetables. Earlier this year, while harvesting from the Hub garden, Tevita discovered a large marrow. Rather than keep it for himself he offered the marrow to a family in the community. It was a joyful experience for everyone.”

“The gardening and compost workshops provided at the hub were not only a stepping point for families to start developing their gardening knowledge, but also helped to establish connections between the community and new members.”

In early January, Tevita was introduced to garden volunteer, Richard Stirling, and the pair have since banded together, with Richard taking on the role as Tevita’s gardening mentor.

More recently, the pair set the lofty goal of building raised garden beds at Tevita’s family home. After spending hours removing concrete slabs, clearing debris and weeds, Tevita and Richard are now ready for the next stage of protecting the gardens from chickens and pūkeko before planting new crops.

 Tevita says the best thing about gardening is being able to bring home the vegetables for his family.

“Gardening is cool because it’s my first time gardening and I get to learn how to do it with other people.”

Healthy Families Waitākere Systems Innovator, Michele Eickstaedt, says community garden hubs are uniquely positioned to grow a community’s sense of connectedness and belonging.

“The Glenavon Community Hub serves a small, ethnically diverse community of around 6,500 people, about 500 households located in between Blockhouse Bay and Avondale. It’s the heart of the community, making a real difference to the people who live here.

We understand garden hubs to be unique places which not only benefit health and wellbeing but also build community connection, enhance life skills and build local sustainability and resilience.

Through the generosity of gardening volunteers, Tevita and children like him are learning a life skill so one day, they can build their own community garden, and pass this skill on to the next generation.”

Since 2016, Healthy Families Waitākere has supported the Backyard Garden Project in the development of nearly 200 backyard gardens across West Auckland. The team have backboned the initiative by bringing key stakeholders together to collectively create a greater impact on the community. Stakeholders include Compost Collective, Community Waitakere, local gardening champions, schools, community hubs and Auckland Council.

Each garden hub is intentionally positioned in places where people spend their time including; childcare centres, schools, workplaces and parks. Each garden hub is equipped with the tools needed to deliver a range of gardening workshops to the community, whilst also building neighbourhood connections.

Thanks to Auckland Council for providing funding to support the coordination and development of garden hubs across West Auckland.