SURVIVORS’ recently held a gardening Healing Club – clients, staff, and interpreters traveled to Heritage Park in Old Town to pot a plant as a way of healing together in community. Gardening is a peaceful and mindful practice. Many torture survivors find they forget about their traumatic experiences when they are outdoors, smelling fresh soil, and cradling a seedling in their hands.
The torture survivors came from all over the world, from places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Guatemala, and the enjoyed meeting one another and sharing a bit about their hobbies and activities in San Diego. Many garden on their own, and taught those new to gardening some of their favorite tricks and tips.
Then Lauren Widak, MSW intern, began the activity by encouraging everyone to be as present as possible in what they were doing, to enjoy each other’s company, and to take in every ounce of the activity. They started by writing down a special memory, prayer, hope, dream, or wish on a piece of paper, this way their plant will grow from this special writing into a healing piece for them to nurture and care for. One client wrote, “I wish to see peace and a world without war and violence.” Then many clients chose to paint the pots their favorite colors, or their children’s favorite colors, others wrote down their children’s name on the pot to think of them every time they took care of their plant.
Lauren says, “It meant a lot for me to see each other sharing their powerful messages of hopes and dreams for the world to grow. It was heartwarming to see the group interact with one another sharing and discussing their plant of choice. Overall I really enjoyed watching each group member provide a sense of community healing through the assistance towards one another.”
In the presence of nature and peace, clients were able to write very personal messages and share them with a group of people. For torture survivors, cut off from love and beauty by so much destruction, it can be life changing to watch a plant grow out of a personal message. Everyone was smiling, laughing, and conversing at the end of the day.