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Blogs and Opinion How gardening is preventing exploitation and helping survivors to grow

How gardening is preventing exploitation and helping survivors to grow

Hope for Justice is teaching survivors of modern slavery gardening skills to help them on their journey to recovery. At Tuda Lighthouse in Uganda, a safe shelter for children who have faced, or who are at risk of, exploitation and trafficking, children learn how to care for vegetables. 

“They learn about tomato and onion growing. How to mulch, water, prune and support each crop” says Michael Esalu, a local teacher. But gardening is much more than caring for vegetables. It helps children learn employable skills to take back to their families to reduce the risk of being trafficked.

“The survivors have embraced the idea and are willing to extend this kind of service to their communities, once reunited with their families back home”, notes Michael.  

“When I go home, I want to teach other people in my community how to grow tomatoes so that we can use them to make tasty rolex” [A popular street food in Uganda, an omelette with vegetables rolled up in flatbread]

Quote from a child from the Lighthouse. 

Gardening also helps children practice self-care and improve their confidence, well-being and social skills.  

“I love backyard gardening because I feel proud when I plant a small seed and it turns into big plants with fruits. It reminds me that patience pays”

Quote from a child from the Lighthouse. 

“Gardening helps me to relax. I forget about my problems when I am in the garden taking care of the plants”

Quote from a child from the Lighthouse. 

As well as gardening, Hope for Justice has helped introduce ‘tower gardens’ to communities as a way to grow nutrient-rich food cheaply and easily. For example, in Katwe slum in Kampala, Uganda, there have been many reports of human trafficking, as well as high rates of poverty and poor nutrition among the community. We’ve supported two families to set up their own tower gardens in their households, where they can sell vegetables to their neighbours and eat much healthier meals.  

Teaching survivors gardening skills is part of Hope for Justice’s micro-enterprise program, where women save and get loans to start their own businesses using the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) model. Women and families also learn about positive parenting, entrepreneurship and child protection through weekly group meetings. 

Although just a simple plant or garden tower, watering, caring for and watching something grow can help survivors to empower themselves and their community, and to find strength and hope in their recovery.  

As a child at our Tuda Lighthouse notes, “Taking care of plants by weeding and watering them reminds me that even when you have passed through hard times, good things can still happen”.