gardening for hope

Submitted by ConsciousBabe on Tue, 2012-02-14 12:15

The Haven Night Shelter Welfare Organisation plans to further empower Cape Town’s homeless

Michael Valentine- project manager of new exciting gardening and worming projectMichael Valentine- project manager of new exciting gardening and worming project

Wynberg Haven Shelter's dusty yard seemed empty save for a handful of the loitering residents smoking cigarettes, playing with an old exercise bike or just staring blankly into space. The huge trees danced restlessly as we greeted a certain Michael Valentine.

Michael tells us he has been working on the gardening and composting schemes at this Haven for the last 4 years. From next month he hopes to become involved more full-time with this project in the hope of developing the same gardening scheme at all the Havens around Cape Town. The ideas is to sell the worms, worm compost and worm tea to raise funds for the Haven’s residents.

‘This project would be like a stipend for the people who come to the Haven and need something to help them while they are out looking for a job,’ explains Michael. ‘They can earn a small bit of monies by working in the garden, helping them to pay their own train fare, a night here at the shelter or even a cool drink if they like.’

I soon learn that within this place of suggested desolation lives an abundance of hope in the form of earth worms and a plentiful of thriving vegetable plants. Michael hopes to empower people through their green fingers, offering both mentorship and support in the process. It soon becomes clear that, if this project gets going, it would be a great opportunity for those keen to make a fresh start.

Some plants grow in old tyres, others in sacks or cratesSome plants grow in old tyres, others in sacks or crates

Trained by ‘Soil For Life’ a local food gardening NGO, Mr Valentine has been caught up for the in recent years with working as a gardening empowerment facilitator in impoverished communities. He is all about spreading the awesome-ness that is self-sustainability through growing your own food.

‘A garden the size of a door-frame can feed a whole family!,’ claims Micheal, as he shows us around his garden. You can see the evidence of all his hard work, as plants grow happily along the length of two walls, creating a corner of organic paradise where you’d least expect it.

As well as the worm set-up of around 10 old baths, there is a horse manure compost heap for the more acidic and processed foods waste. In the garden I see mielies, tomatoes, cabbage, green beans, spinach, carrots, lavender and plenty more I don’t quite recognise. Michael tells me he is into inter-planting, where you plant all of a ‘root’ plant, a ‘leaf’ plant, a ‘fruit’ plant and a ‘legume’ together in a small area. Innovation is present too, with old CD’s hung as ‘Bird Scares’ and paper bags tied around certain plants to collect their seed. He plants in old tyres, sacks and crates.

‘I want to help give these people a sense of pride,’ says Michael. ‘Gardening can also help a person with their stresses, as it is very therapeutic.’

They are in the process of finalising plans for this Haven gardening and worm project.

Lush worm compostLush worm compost

Call the Wynberg Haven Night Shelter on 021 762 8243 to purchase worms, worm compost, worm tea or vegetables from their garden or email

Click here to watch Greg Copelands video of this project.