by Shiri Hergass, Country Manager, Gunawirra Project

Although Poet’s Corner is in the middle of Redfern/Waterloo, 10 minutes from Gunawirra house, I felt I was transported to another part of Australia when I went to visit. As I walked down to the pre-school, there were people screaming, swearing, and fighting. Although it was only 9:30 in the morning, a group of very intoxicated people were standing in the middle of the street. One fell into the gutter.

The school is underneath a high rising building, on which none of the windows have any curtains, only torn blankets and sheets. Although the trip to the preschool had my heart beating slightly faster, going into the preschool felt like stepping into an oasis.

This is what the teachers, Rahlene and Jenny, told me:

Kids mending their garden

Kids growing their veggies

“Gunawirra got some money from these generous people at the Happy Herb Company. Jimmy- Gunawirra’s gardener,  built a garden with the children. For the first time children saw vegetables!! Jimmy put in a different variety of vegetables. Capsicums for example,are one of the vegetables that the children have never seen or heard of before.  So we learned about nutrition, in an experiential way, where do vegetables come from? We could show the children and let them be a part of the process!

We grew the veggies for about 6 weeks and then invited the parents in and we cooked together. We made spaghetti bolognese with capsicum and spinach that we grew in the garden. The parents could not believe the kids would eat the food but not only did they really enjoy and were mindful about each bite they had, they asked for more! Because they grew it! It was their veggies and they loved it.

The garden was fabulous. Children with additional needs could strengthen their muscles digging in the sand, and it was something they enjoyed doing.For them it was not work so we could do the activities that we needed to do with them. These are children who have never experienced a garden in their life, they come from high rise buildings. We used the gardens for many other things. For example, the children have never experienced insects and this was the next step after the vegetables. We played detectives, they got magnifying glasses and we looked for insects in the ground. We read about the insects we found, we spoke about them and we used art to create them.

Tasting their own produce

Tasting their own produce

Using the garden we learned about responsibility. They learnt new words and numeracy as we measured the growth of the veggies, and the length of the insects. This gave us also a lot of insight of what happens at home as the children shared some of the stories from home and took things from here back to their parents. The kids are now interested in growing Dahlias and learning about flowers. They are all sharing the same interest so it encourages team work as well. We are learning that everything has a purpose and everything has a life that needs to be respected. Without bugs we don’t have the continuation of flowers, vegetation’s and everything else.  We started with gardens but it has evolved into everything else.

We think our gardens and nutrition will link in with your 5 big ideas. We are thinking long term and we would love to be able to plant fruit trees. It will be not only for us but for community as well. We are in an area that is difficult to live in, but the garden has been a bridge for the people and the children learning to accept each other and learning to speak with one another. We call our garden a community garden. We even have one of the people coming to look after it and water it once a week for us and share his knowledge about the plants.  You told us the people from OHO through Happy Herb Company paid for the garden for us.

Would you please thank them!!!  Would you say, we have created a happy Herb Centre right here!!