Community garden helps people bond

Woodlands residents learning how to grow their own vegetables, make herbal tea, paint on pebbles and create eco-craft items at an event organised by students of Evergreen Secondary School on March 12.
Woodlands residents learning how to grow their own vegetables, make herbal tea, paint on pebbles and create eco-craft items at an event organised by students of Evergreen Secondary School on March 12.PHOTO: COURTESY OF OUN YEJIU

Getting all hands on deck

It may be a modest patch of land, just 24m by 14m, but the community garden beside Evergreen Secondary School in Woodlands has been special for the neighbourhood since it opened in October 2014.

There, residents and students grow vegetables, medicinal and culinary herbs, and ornamental flowers. They also regularly harvest the vegetables and distribute them to the nearby old folks' home.

Building on the residents' love for nature, 17 students from the school's Interact Club organised a day of gardening-related activities for them on March 12.

At the garden and the void deck of the adjacent Block 869 in Woodlands Street 83, residents learnt how to grow their own vegetables, make herbal tea, paint on pebbles and create eco-craft items. For instance, unused clothes were turned into bags, and bottles were made into pen holders.

Mr Oun Yejiu, 35, teacher-in-charge of the Interact Club, said the event, which drew about 300 people, was a good way for students to bond with the community and sharpen leadership skills.

The club is not new to the Good Neighbours Project. Last year, it organised a similar event, but this year's edition had more group activities to encourage bonding, said club member and Secondary 4 student Caitlin Kwok, 16.

"We asked residents to plant seeds in groups. Each group is collectively responsible for their plant," she explained.

Eco-trainer Lalitha Nair, 55, who oversees the garden, said such activities help to further the garden's purpose of helping youngsters get close to nature and other people.

"We have to inculcate love for the environment in the young. It cannot be done with exams and books. It should be a fun thing," said Madam Lalitha, who is also a grassroots leader and an ambassador for the National Parks Board's Community in Bloom programme.

This seems to be working.

Caitlin, who lives nearby in Woodlands Drive 40, said she plans to continue tending the garden even after graduating this year.

"I'll get my neighbours, family and friends to all join me too."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'Community garden helps people bond'. Print Edition | Subscribe