Yes, its summer here and one of our favorite times of the year with our Flawless Community. It was so inspiring to step back into our amazing gardens from last summer and bring everything back to life. We are so incredibly grateful to our Garden of Miracles donors and especially to our corporate sponsor for this program, Alice Hair. Alice McCarney, corporate sponsor and Flawless board member has been completely devoted to this project and has supported it every step of the way since its inception last year. We love you Alice.
Enjoy our gardening video and blog below from our wonderful summer intern, Amalya. Happy Gardening!!
Working with the kids in the garden has been the most rewarding experience of my internship and summer to date. From the excitement in the children’s eyes as they caught glimpses of Janine and I unloading donated soil and plants from our cars, to their eagerness to jump in and get their hands dirty with the project as they anxiously awaited their class’ turn to come out to the garden, there was a distinct buzz of excitement on campus. Many of the students were apprehensive and shy at first, but with some encouragement, they were easily drawn into the garden and quickly got so immersed in the project that they were nearly dragged back to the classroom.
The great thing about gardening, especially with this group, is that there are tasks to meet any and all levels that the student is at. One high point of my day was helping a very challenged boy with Autism with no use of language find his place in the garden by mixing soil and compost. He began wearing gloves, but quickly removed them to feel the moist soil with his bare hands and smell the rich earthy scents. He found a place of purpose in the garden that not only met his functioning levels but also met the needs of the garden. One teacher warned us of a few students in particular who were having rough mornings, but once they got into the garden and began work, there was no sign of any behavior problems. As I knelt at the edge of the garden bed planting with students one on one, they told me about their previous gardening at home and here at Pioneer, their favorite things to grow and their favorite things to eat. The project provoked a mature conversation for these kids as they took to confiding in me, a complete stranger, about their lives and experiences. One boy boasted growing a watermelon in his yard at home as he delicately filled the soil in around the blueberry bush he had just planted. Two boys fought over sharing a terracotta planter, but I explained and showed them how different their respective plants were in shape and scent and after understanding this, they consented to sharing, an engaged in some friendly competition between their crops.
The children lit up as they saw how capable and successful they could be with the tasks at hand. In the gardening world, their disabilities don’t hold them back and it’s amazing to watch their ambition with the project. The sensory aspects; the touch, smells and sounds of gardening, were calming and focusing. Watching these students enter the garden, slip on the gloves and pick up a trowel was like watching them leave behind their struggles and issues and escape into an alternate world. The garden project provided a venue for these children to stretch their patience, their listening and instruction skills, as well as provide an outlet for responsibility and pride.
I know it might seem curious to read “end of summer bounty” on October 26th but we have truly been celebrating the bounty of summer in our gardens at Flawless. The weather has been intermittently summer like and just this weekend, my son and I went to a farm to pick pumpkins and picked so much more – tomatoes, peppers and even strawberries – Amazing!
Surprisingly, last Wednesday, we had a warm, sunny beautiful day in the garden with our favorite class of gardeners at Pioneer. It was incredible, we started working in the greenhouse, preparing for winter and we were able to harvest a bunch of produce and flowers. I was so moved to see the various classes coming out to the courtyard that we have brought so much life to through the gardening and art – we had kids drawing still life pictures, eating things that they were picking(one boy actually liked raw cabbage – so good!) , watering, weeding, greenhousing – It was such a celebration. And as always, we notice that the children are more at peace surrounded by the beauty and miracle of growing and nature.
The therapeutic benefits of this gardening program have gone way beyond my wildest dreams. I am still in awe of the day that one of the boys was very agitated and distressed and wasnt able to get on the bus until I arrived with the infamous bowl of basil and tomatoes that I had just harvested in the garden. Once the boy had inhaled the strong aroma of the basil, he came completely back to his body and calmed down. It was truly a miracle to watch him walk down the hallway to his bus, carrying some tomatoes home to his family. Aromatherapy for sure!!
Other summer memories – chock full of abundance and celebration and growth for Flawless. June was our big Perfection Party Gala in NYC which was a super fun and successful event. July brought the launch of our gardening projects and August was our Collaborative Problem Solving Conference at OHSU.( along with the festive Champagne Reception at the Saxton’s to honor Dr. Ablon from Think Kids) We are so grateful for the Obama’s commitment to community service and the declation of the Summer of 09 to be the Summer of Service. September 11th was designated as a national day of service and many of our corporate donors participated in donating a portion of their proceeds to Flawless that day. Thank you to Alice Hair, Stella and Dot, The Green Grocer, Bob’s African Wines, SE Grind, Bluesky Wellness and Lulu. “Summer of service” – That is definitely what it was about for us here at Flawless.
We launched our Garden of Miracles this week – it was a dream. We started with a class of 8 – 11 year old boys who are quite active and to watch them interacting, planning, gardening together with such calm and peace was AMAZING. The teachers were awe struck at the change in the students behavior – we are more convinced than ever that gardening is such a healing therapy for at risk youth. ( or for anyone) Anna(flawless intern) and I have been there everyday and it has been so rewarding and exciting. This is my favorite photo - Below is a note that Tara Dixon our board member wrote to the other board members after her visit to Pioneer Special School to launch the gardening program.
I got back to NY last night from a whirlwind visit to Portland where I fell in love with the city.
Monday I had the opportunity to help out with the start of the Flawless Garden of Miracles. We started our day by going around to nurseries in the area that had donated things to grow to Flawless. It was hysterical to see J9, myself and Anna (flawless intern) in J9′s car with flats of tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash, strawberries and flowers. We arrived at The Pioneer School and we were greeted by several familiar faces from the video. It was so amazing to be there in person. Lauren Harkness was there already working with some students and teachers on clearing the last of the sand from the former sand box. Next, one of the teachers with horticultural experience, David, came out to talk about a plan for the garden. It was great to see collaborative problem solving in action and the actual plan of where the footpaths would go came from a very willful child, Jake. The next step was to draw the two main path’s in the dirt making a + sign. The children worked very hard carving out the lines in the dirt. The next step was tilling the earth so that the plants’ roots would have a chance to grow deeper. It was so rewarding to be working side by side with these children and seeing them work so hard. Every one was anxious to pour the topsoil but first two more paths were drawn so the overall plan of the garden looks like a * in a square. Then came many trips to the sink with brightly colored watering cans to wet the dirt. At one point a boy named Jim who had been having a tough day came up to me and said, “Are you a plant? Do you need some water?” I made a silly pose like a flower and we both laughed. While working it was incredible to see the staff with the children. They are so patient and direct and such amazing role models. It was wonderful to see their enthusiasm for the project too. At the end of the day we watered all the plants. I was leaving the next morning but Janine told me that they returned to do the planting and it looks amazing.
I couldn’t help but reflect on Seanog several times through out the day. The Flawless Garden of Miracles in his honor has commenced. Kids at risk are working in the dirt and seeing the hope of planting something and seeing it grow and flourish.