Gardening as an Empowerment Opportunity – Follow-up from a Global Impact Grant winner

Gardening as an Empowerment Opportunity – Follow-up from a Global Impact Grant winner

Greenheart recently heard from Kirin, one of our 2021 Global Impact Grant winners on how her Greenheart grant has made a difference in her community!

HER PROJECT:  Kirin project was to establish a community garden to facilitate the education and involvement of children so that they are stakeholders in environmental sustainability and in their own food security.  Through this project children would become aware of methods to grow food and medicinal herbs in an urban environment, and would be brought together with other residents to consider how gardening may reduce stress or save money and provide other benefits for wellness, and a personal connection and responsibility to their natural environment. Objectives were to empower children to create and cultivate their own food, and to be excited about gardening.

Kirin stated that “I left at age 17 to spend my last year of high school as an exchange student in the Austrian countryside with Greenheart Travel. I was really moved by the ambassadorial experience and cultural exchange, and I loved learning German. After that year, I entered St. John’s University in Queens, New York, where I eventually earned a dual Bachelors/Masters in Government and Politics. During my time at college, I completed two Greenheart Grant projects.”

I was awarded a Greenheart Impact Grant to design and implement a Kids’ Community Garden for Sustainability & Education! We created a garden in Virginia, USA, and had a very interesting experience. A problem we saw was kids being unaware of where their food was coming from, and lacking proper knowledge of the power it can have to affect wellness. In Virginia, eating disorders, malnutrition, and obesity are all problems among the youth population. Our team knew we could use this garden as an empowerment opportunity!

While we originally intended to host the garden at an urban apartment complex, elements of the plan changed because of the costs associated with liability for the garden in that space. We were able to create an innovative method of bringing plants to the classroom in transportable boxes, showing the versatility of growing one’s own food. The garden at points supplied the educational programs with food, herbs, and honey for kids to consume and learn about.

For example, we could sweeten smoothies with honey from the garden, showing kids an alternative to processed sugar. We also were able to gain insight into how to physically support the garden and set it up for success; how to translate information about gardening, the local climate, and food/herbs into a curriculum that is useful beyond just our direct work and ideas about approaching this in the future.

Some more notes on our project:

– We included compost to the side of the garden, so organic waste from the afterschool programs and locals could be put there. We have also arranged to receive manure from local horses as well.

– We were able to use free mulch from Fairfax County and received donations of bee-keeping material for apiculture, gloves and suits, and tools.

– Since we were growing organically, pests did get into the food. However, we do want the whole ecosystem to benefit from the garden and saw this as something we could discuss with the kids.

– There were some hacks we used to save time and help the garden and environment thrive, such as laying down tarps, so we did not have to constantly weed the garden, and leaving out buckets to collect rainwater in to reduce water usage.

The process of engaging with the earth and working as a team to understand where our food comes from is important for young minds to understand. The photos mostly show the process and work of clearing the land; this took so much time, effort, and great teamwork.

We are rooted in gratitude to the earth and to Greenheart for making this project possible. My hope is that more projects like this can be initiated for communities to take food security and environmentalism into their own hands!

While we just finished another school year and we were able to increase our focus on teaching how food choices fuel body movement. With this, we will strengthen the local community and guide more sustainable lifestyles for the people exposed to it.

Thank you Kirin for making a difference!

Are you interested in learning more about Greenheart Impant Grants and scholarships? Please visit for more information.

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