Immigrant Students Plan their Own Community Garden

On April 6, 2013, refugee students originally from Vietnam were joined by their families and friends when they broke ground at the site of their future community garden at Moberly Elementary School.

Students Jenny Ro'Mah, Tina Ksor, Susan Sui, and 19-year-old Josh Rahlan are all from the Jarai ethnic group of Vietnam and they are hoping to stay connected to their Jarai roots through this garden project.

"It's important because there are almost no Jarai people here," said student Tina Ksor.  "We don't want to forget about our language and our culture, and the garden will help us stay connected to Vietnam."

The garden will create a spot for members of the Vancouver Jarai community to come together to share their knowledge of traditional agricultural skills, not only with Jarai youth, but with the entire surrounding community as well.

Gardening and farming are vital skills for traditional Jarai families in Vietnam.  Children often stayed at home to help their parents tend to their crops and as a result, didn't go to school.

"In Vietnam, if you can't farm for yourself, and you can't plant a garden, then you can't live," said student Jenny Ro'mah.  "It is a big, big part of our culture."

With guidance from Jennifer Reddy, program coordinator of the Engaged Immigrant Youth Program, the students earned a grant to fund their garden from the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Foundation.

For Susan Siu, the garden is a way for her to remain connected to Vietnam.

"This garden will help me stay in touch with Vietnam," said Siu.  "I want to plant this garden because I don't want to forget my own culture."

The Engaged Immigrant Youth Program runs outside of school time and provides emotional and educational support for students who are new to Vancouver and helps them ease into a new society while retaining a connection with their cultural backgrounds.

"The program is a process based program -- nothing is set in a curriculum and we don't have a 10 step program," said Reddy.  "We really work based on where they kids are at and what their individual needs are."

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