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Reaping the benefits

The Salvation Army Feilding Community Life Skills Garden

17 Jun | 2014

In the rural town of Feilding, isolated people and those caught up in the court system are finding a new direction and a newfound self-confidence.

The Salvation Army Feilding Community Life Skills Garden was established 18 months ago on unused land behind the Army’s Feilding complex.

The garden provides fresh produce for the Army’s food bank. Its green house and rotary hoe were donated and its shed built by students at Education and Employment, the vocational training arm of The Salvation Army.

But it’s most important function is to help Salvation Army clients reconnect with their communities, motivate them to make changes to their lives and prepare them to re-enter the work force.

Rob Green established the gardens and oversees their operation. He says while the number of people working on the project is modest, watching once withdrawn and disheartened people begin to bloom is a moving experience.

Participants are mainly Salvation Army Community Ministries clients and those Rob has met in court as part of his work as a Salvation Army Court Officer.

Many of these people had become socially isolated, lacked purpose and had given up on any hope of truly participating in their community, Rob says.

Clients learn new skills, develop friendships and learn to be part of a team and develop self-discipline and personal responsibility.

Rob provides references for clients who have exhibited commitment, initiative and responsibility - often the first reference of their lives.

He says many of those who have worked at the gardens have at first been tentative and sometimes reluctant to get involved. Over time, they become increasingly interested and motivated and eventually see themselves as having a stake in and a responsibility for the project.

Under Rob’s guidance, one previously unmotivated teenage gradually discovered a renewed interest in the work and has since gone on to secure employment.

Another man, who Rob describes as a once angry and reluctant participant, has moved to Palmerston North where he is a central figure at The Salvation Army’s local community garden there.

Others have found a new confidence, new interests and friendships, and one recently had his outstanding court fines cancelled because of his commitment to the project.

‘We don’t operate on a large scale but I believe we are changing lives,’ Rob says.