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Bringing Bhutanese Village Life to Refugees in New Hampshire

June 10, 2014
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Bringing Bhutanese Village Life to Refugees in New Hampshire
Through gardening, New Hampshire is bridging gaps with its Bhutanese population. Getty Images
The Sycamore Field Community Garden grows more than veggies.

Getting down and dirty in the garden offers a multitude of health benefits.

And now, a community garden in Concord, New Hampshire is helping Bhutanese refugees with homesickness by recreating the village atmosphere they miss.

Ghana Khatiwada, a translator fluent in Nepali and English who works as a cultural liasion for the garden, told Megan Doyle of the Concord Monitor, “To them, it’s like a home feeling to come here and work in a garden,” she said.

The Sycamore Field Community Garden charges only $15 for a plot each season, so even the most impoverished refugees can participate. Organizers give away free seedlings to the immigrants.

While all this sounds great, it isn’t problem free. Each year, there’s a giant waiting list for the 138 garden plots available; this season, 70 families entered a lottery for the four open slots.

The lucky winners of plots emerge from the growing season well-fed, with extra cash in their pockets. “We are saving a lot of money,” gardener Ghana Khatiwada told Doyle. “In the winter, we spent a lot of money on vegetables like tomatoes, okra, eggplants.”

Ideally, garden manager Cheryl Bourassa would expand the garden, but she’s limited due to the amount of available water. To increase the number of plots, the nonprofit, which relies on grants and donations for its funding, would have to dig a new well — at a cost of $15,000. So recently, they filmed a video of the bustling activity in the garden to feature on Faithify, a crowdfunding website that will launch next month. Lea Smith, who shot the video, told Doyle, “Maybe somebody in Idaho will be inspired to help refugee farmers in Concord, New Hampshire.”

It’s clear that the atmosphere in The Sycamore Field Community Gardens is worth sustaining. Bourassa told Doyle that in the summer when the plants are burgeoning and the gardeners are there to tend them, “It’s almost like a little social club. It’s this real sense of life in a village.”

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