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Purpose, belonging grows

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October 07, 2017

African House mentor Leon Tepper has assisted Abraham Awan, Mugisha Bonfils and Smitha Shanela in the development of a community garden.

A project promoting community engagement within the African community has taken the form of a garden.

In partnership with the Shepparton Ethnic Council, Shepparton’s African House has started a community garden project, which has produced a man-made garden shed and colourful garden beds for the community.

A number of African youth have been involved for the past couple of months, digging up land, building structures, and honing their garden skills with the help of mentor Leon Tepper.

African House manager Rosalie Muston said the garden was part of the Place Based Targeted Program, funded by the Justice Department.

The aim of the program is to engage with young people who may face challenges in the mainstream community, providing them with a sense of purpose and belonging.

The garden project has involved African youth and young adults in all stages of the construction, including buying materials, building and planting.

‘‘It’s giving them the opportunity to do something they may not have done before, particularly the young girls have had a chance to use the electric tools,’’ Ms Muston said.

‘‘I think it’s very much centred around the relationships than the actual building of this project, and there have been lots of flow-ons where they’ve been assisted in other areas of their lives as well.

‘‘It’s been wonderful to see at the end of the day when they’ve built something, because there’s that sense of accomplishment and also just the relaxed atmosphere that develops as they’re working there.’’

The African garden project complements other youth-focused programs at St Paul’s African House, including the Ignite Sound music program and the Better Futures basketball program.

Ms Muston said it also fit perfectly into the development of the outdoor area at the house, making it a family-friendly area for Africans of all ages and visitors to spend time together.

Ethnic Council project co-ordinator Sam Atukorala said the council led a consortium of service providers in delivering programs that supported awareness of the justice system, social connectedness, community capacity building and improved intercultural relationships within Shepparton.

‘‘It’s a wonderful project because it brings the communities together, which is what were trying to achieve,’’ Mr Atukorala said.

‘‘By doing these projects, not only are we achieving this, but we’re creating more opportunities to work in the future.’’

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