“Everything I’ve learned about agriculture, I’ve learned here.
This work is very good for me.”
Taha, a former tour guide in his native city of Aleppo, has found a new passion at a very unlikely place.
“In Syria, I lived in a big city," he said. "There was little agriculture or gardens. I love to work outside in nature. In Syria [in the big cities], you can’t really work in nature. But here, it’s possible. I find working in the garden very beautiful.”
Taha volunteers at Amersfoort’s Tuinen van Verbinding — a government-funded garden that grows fresh food for the local food bank (the volunteers also get to take food home). Twice a week, he can be found planting, digging, watering and seeding, taking great care to ensure the garden’s 26 varieties of plants and vegetables grow to their fullest.
“He feels very responsible for what he’s doing,” said Jelle, the garden’s manager. “So much so that when we planted zucchini that needed to be watered, he’d say, ‘If it’s not going to rain, then I’ll come on Sunday to water the plants.’ He feels very responsible, and at the end of the day, he stays the latest of all the workers. He’s a very hard worker."
Taha’s favorite foods in the garden? “The radishes,” he said. “And the potatoes. Carrots. Spinach.”
Integration through gardening
The mission of the garden goes beyond growing food: it’s also a place where people from unique and diverse cultures can come together and learn from one another.
“We try to unite several people with different backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common: we enjoy working here in the garden,” said Jelle.
The benefits of having such diversity of volunteers? “Most of the people here enjoy the connections and interactions. And they love doing this kind of work. It’s very tough work — not everyone enjoys it. The best experiences in integration are the moments where people meet each other in what they have in common.”
Jelle (left) and Taha (right)
“When organizations try to connect people who sit at home and want to do something, meet other people and be in nature, it’s a good thing.”
“I’m learning about agriculture,” Taha said. “It’s my first time working in a garden. Everything I’ve learned about agriculture, I’ve learned here. And my Dutch is becoming better here. Each day I learn more.”
“I like it here. I'm going to continue working here. This work is very good for me.”
Interested in helping newcomers like Taha thrive in their new homes by participating in society? Check out our website to learn more about how you can impact the lives of local newcomers.