Youth find strength in gardening

Published 12:21 pm Monday, September 12, 2016

By Sammara Bailey
Program Specialist

The period between the ages of 12 to 14 represents a special time in the life of an individual, for it is during these years that he or she leaves childhood behind and undergoes profound change. Engaging junior youth in programs that seek to enhance their spiritual and intellectual capacities will prepare them to participate effectively in the affairs of their communities.

Groups of 5 to 15 junior youth are formed and facilitated by trained individuals, who serve as mentors and role models. The themes the participants will be studying are cooperation, unity, service to humanity, truthfulness, striving for excellence in their lives and for the community, and justice.

The following are the components of the program:

A Junior Youth Group comes together for one to two hours per week to:

• Study materials for language and expression development;

• Engage in meaningful activities, including the arts;

• Participate in recreational and sports activities; and

• Plan and carryout service projects

Spiritual Empowerment is achieved in Junior Youth by:

• Developing their spiritual perception (i.e. love, compassion, patience, perseverance…);

• Enhancing their power of expression; and

• Building a sound moral structure

The Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program aims to:

• Assist them to recognize the moral issues underlying everyday decisions and identify the moral implications of speech and action.

• Empower them to channel their energies towards both strengthening their own character and to serving their community.

With the above being the overview of the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program, which is amongst several thousand that exist throughout the world, the one in Franklin, has taken on as one of its service projects a Community Garden.

The idea of the garden was initiated by the junior youth participants themselves as a way to promote a healthy eating habit and diet for their community. But the effective implementation of the project couldn’t have been achieved without the collaborative effort from several entities, both individuals and an organization. Most of the funding as well as several elements of the shared vision was contributed by the Martin Luther King Community Center whose members are Frank Davis, director, and Sammara Bailey, program specialist.

As for the land for planting and many of the equipment and tools for the gardening, as well as the expertise on raising vegetables, it was provided by James and Hattie Riddick. In addition to this, there had been also further consultation with Martha Saunders a neighbor of the Riddicks, and Jane Wilson an agriculture expert who had come from an external city to help out in the initial stage of the project, such as to teach and guide the junior youth, children, as well as the mentors Helen Beshah and Simret Mehtzun on the various needs on how to grow vegetables and crop. The community garden begun on June 5.

After the departure of Wilson, who had stayed in Franklin for about a week, most of the consultation in how to nurture the vegetables was done with Riddick, who had had an extensive experience in growing vegetables. Amongst the vegetables the junior youth had planted and are currently rising are squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, watermelons, carrots, black beans, green peppers, basil, etc. A few of the vegetables such as squash and cucumbers being ripe recently, the junior youth along with a few children from their community were able to harvest the vegetables and take them to their homes to give to their parents and other family members.

As this is amongst several of the service projects that the junior youth have undertaken, the vision is that service projects as such are to be based on the needs of the community, but within the capacity of the junior youth to carry them out and sustain them. Some pervious services projects that the adolescents had done is to make Get Well cards for the sick, pick up trash in their neighborhood, as well as paint two metal cabinets for the Martin Luther King Community Center.

The overall objective of Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program is to enable the adolescent age group 12 to 15 to improve their own selves and ultimately contribute to the betterment of their communities through acts of service that they themselves initiate but guided by their mentors.