My name is Ben and I’m an AmeriCorps community garden specialist serving World Relief Seattle in Kent through the Washington Service Corps.
A project born out of World Relief’s Resiliency Program, “Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden” exists as green space to empower refugees, immigrants and the local community to improve food access, build community and foster economic independence. While addressing social equity, the garden also serves as an effective model for environmental stewardship through converting an unused parking lot into a productive community garden, as well as installing several green infrastructure features that capture rainwater into cisterns and filter polluted stormwater through 5 rain gardens. As the garden specialist, my job is to assist staff in administrative tasks pertaining to the garden in the office, to serve as a resource for the gardeners, and to maintain a safe, productive space for the everything from the plants to the soil to the gardeners to grow and flourish.
COVID-19 has certainly made life a little different for everyone. The garden was able to open on time on April 1st, but we’ve had to cancel all gatherings and hold classes offered to our gardeners virtually. In response to the economic impact that COVID-19 has had on refugee families served by World Relief, my site supervisor launched a food distribution drive in the beginning of April. From sourcing donations to delivering food to family’s doorsteps, I’ve been able to assist in all aspects of the operation, most recently becoming the main point of contact with Lyft, to implement their drivers into our food delivery program while their ridership is down.
While the focus of my service has been to work in a garden that improves food security, it’s been great to experience another mode of addressing food access in such a critical time. I’m a gardener because of its ability to steward environmental, social and economic change. It is a tangible impact, something that when I put work into the garden, I can see the effect that it has on me and the surrounding environment. The goal of my service with AmeriCorps has been to further my professional and personal development as a gardener, in order to promote environmental, social and economic change. My service has solidified my desire to serve as a horticultural resource to the community, but in what capacity is still to be determined. I’m excited to see what my impact will look like between now and the end of my term.