Imagine as many as 300 newcomer families gardening and feasting on vegetables that they grew themselves. What you are envisioning is the Rainbow Community Garden Project.
Families work together to plant, tend and harvest with children playing along side in a safe environment. Everyone is learning about gardening and experiencing respect for the land and what it provides.
The Project was initiated in 2008 by a group of new immigrants and was nurtured by Knox who helped to find partners in the City of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba which provides access to two acres of land. Knox provided the tools and resources that were needed to launch the project and continues to provide financial and prayerful support. Harvest from the gardens is spread on the communion table at thanksgiving as a reminder of God’s bounty.
The dreamer and mastermind behind this project is Knox member Raymond Ngarboui. Starting with 16 immigrant families from nine different countries in 2008, the Garden has grown to serve a vast community. The project has expanded to use over 10 acres outside the city of Winnipeg, with land in Landmark and Niverville. It has become not only a chance for people to grow their own healthy foods at a low cost, but also to interact among themselves and with Canadian born community members, sharing cultural practices, improving their English, and avoiding social isolation. The Garden uniquely fosters home-country vegetables no one knew would grow on the Canadian prairie!
Besides the outdoor gardening in summer, Rainbow Garden Program continues indoors with the winter program, including djembe drumming, healthy eating and Canadian life skills sharing and training from November to March of every year. The Canadian African Muslim Women’s Association has emerged out of connections developed in the Rainbow Garden group and have become a member of the Community Hub.
Participants come from all around the world: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Congo-Brazzaville, DR Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, and Canada! Over 10,000 kg of nutritious food was produced by the families in one year and the extra veggies were taken to the Central Market and sold throughout the summer to enable families to make some extra income.
The project is now managed by Immigrant Integration Farming Co-op (IIFCC), and partners in addition to Knox. Over the years, partners have included the University of Manitoba, Food Matters Manitoba, Community Education Development Association (CEDA), Central Park Women’s Resource Centre, United Way, Shaw Cable, WRHA, and RBC, which has sent their employees to volunteer at the University of Manitoba garden site.
Photo credits: Raymond Ngarboui