Patrick's Group Garden
Patrick was a young man when a traditional healer came to rid his family of a strange illness that had been affecting his father. “People were telling my dad that he must have been bewitched, so they brought in a witch doctor.” After ceremonially cutting the chests of everyone in his family, Patrick’s entire household contracted HIV. He lost his brothers and sister and both of his parents to the virus and at age 26, Patrick discovered he too was infected.
In order to provide for an extended family that was relying on him for support, Patrick started working as a community HIV counselor for his local hospital. He formed a support group and soon heard about what Development in Gardening (DIG) had been doing on the grounds of a nearby clinic. Patrick asked if we could help him build a garden for his group members. We agreed under the terms that he would need to motivate enough group members to take on the long-term responsibility for this project.
Patrick went above and beyond, he organized more than 20 people and in just a few weeks we had turned a barren space of land behind a hospital into the beginnings of a garden. Over the next few months, we worked with the group as the garden matured teaching them about nurseries, water conservation, organic methods, and seed harvesting.
With their first big harvest of tomatoes we helped them sell the excess produce to the local market and they reinvested that money into the group. Over time their garden proceeds helped them buy three sewing machines so they could expand into other income generating opportunities such as making school uniforms and are now making our fabric note cards and handbags.
One Year Later
We returned to Patrick’s group to check in and we found a transformed community. “Our group has grown to 159 members who are HIV positive, I treat them like they are family and we have grown and strengthened. We are now a model group for our community.” Their community group has been recognized by the county government as being role models and teachers for the entire country. Their garden quadrupled in size, they started a tree nursery to help combat deforestation, bought more sewing machines, and started a food dehydration business. They have generated enough money from these projects to buy 2 acres of land where they are cultivating more gardens and building the regions first business center.
Partick’s story is that of hope: how one garden can make a difference in the lives of so many. “I did not know we could do this for ourselves.” This is what DIG is about, providing tools, knowledge, and a little bit of encouragement to reach beyond what one thinks is possible.