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'Sarbat Da Bhala' Garden in Fresno, California, where elder Sikhs mentor the young

tomato_harvestThe New York Times recently covered the Sarbat Da Bhala Garden in Fresno California in an article on community gardens in immigrant and refugee communities.

‘The thinking of community leaders and health professionals is that gardens can help foster resiliency and a sense of purpose for refugees, especially older ones, who are often isolated by language and poverty and experiencing depression and post-traumatic stress.’

Below is an excerpt of the the article. You can read the full article here and view photos here.

At the new Punjabi Sikh Sarbat Bhala Community Garden, which means “may good come to all,” older Sikhs are mentors to younger gardeners, instructing them on how to harvest fenugreek seeds and use a hand sickle called a datri.

The old men who were farmers in India share memories of oxen races and tell folk tales that invariably end with a moral: hard work pays off.

Amandip Singh Gill, a 32-year-old garden organizer, observed that in the Gurdwara, or temple, “guys have to maintain a successful persona. You can’t say: ‘Oh, man, I just lost my job. How will I support my family?’ But here,” he said of the garden, “a shared history kicks in.”

In a warehouselike shelter, they gather to discuss mental health and community concerns, including a recent attack on an 82-year-old Sikh in Fresno who was beaten with a steel rod. The plan is to bring counseling and other social services to the garden, Mr. Gill said.

The young novices include Parmeshvar Kaur Dhaliwal, a high school senior, who is part of a group of female gardeners.

Ms. Dhaliwal was pruning as the night turned cool, a stack of rubber message bracelets — including ones for Sikh unity and Fresno conservation — on her wrist.

“Young women have to prove ourselves more than our brothers do,” she said. So the group members supports one another, “especially if a girl is down,” she said.

Arminder Singh, a young gardener and a former gang member, said he found himself fortified by his elders, including his grandfather, as they hoe and weed side by side.

“When I used to have free time, I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “Here, I don’t have to sit at home thinking about the past and what I don’t have.”