Braheem’s Story – Transformed by the Garden

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Lily Hughes with Braheem and Zakeena, Pearl Street Sprouts, painting legs for the big caterpillar in preparation of the Harvest Parade.

On Saturday, October 5th, the Urban Tree Connection Sprouts and Veggie Kids Programs took a special trip to Rhiel Farm, an Amish family farm owned by Reuben, rural  farming partner of  Neighborhood Foods. One Sprout, Braheem, was so excited for this trip he could not stop doing flips all morning before the bus came!

Braheem is the “Garden Gnome” of the Conestoga – Pearl Gardens. He has grown up in that garden, cared for it, watched over it and loves every plant and bug there more than any other kid. Two years ago, when I met Braheem he was full of anger and sadness which caused him to act out, be virtually unable to focus on any task, and have difficulty communicating. Now, after cultivating his ability to grow and nurture plants, encouraging his imagination and self confidence, and patiently teaching him ways of calming himself down, Braheem’s six-year-old joy and wonder shines through!

As the bus rolled out of Philadelphia toward Rhiel Farm, it seemed that Braheem and many of the kids from the Conestoga-Pearl Gardens had never left the city before. Braheem and the others exclaimed at every free standing house, the big roads, and when we finally reached the country they shrieked with excitement at corn fields, cows and horses. Braheem started a song that everyone joined in on ” We’re going to the faaaarm!!! oooooo – ooo -oooo!!!”.
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Overjoyed at the opportunity to see and interact with a real working vegetable and animal farm, Braheem told me over and over that this was the best trip ever! For Braheem, this trip was not only a fun time, it was the beginning of him understanding his precious Conestoga-Pearl Garden as being a part of a larger world, a small piece of the larger organic and local food movement. He may not articulate this until he is older, but seeing what is possible in terms of growing food, raising animals and living sustainably will only bolster his dreams for what his garden community could become!
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At the end of the day, Braheem hobbled from the bus to our garden shed, trying to carry the huge pumpkin he had picked at the farm. It is our daily work at the garden to train the kids to express appreciation, as a simple self-initiated “thank you” from many of the kids is rare. However, on this particular day, Braheem looked up at me with a huge grin and said “Thank you so much Ms. Lily for taking me on this trip, it was the best day!”

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– Lily Hughes, UTC’s Community Program Coordinator