REBECCA MANLEY-CAMPBELL & SAMANTHA CLAIRE
It’s the relationships that have grown in the garden they care for that makes it such a special place for Rebecca Manley-Campbell and Samantha Claire. Both are employed to work for three hours a week at the garden in the Coromandel town of Thames, although inevitably they give it a lot more of their time, especially in the summer months.
“It’s a lovely green space where there is always something fruiting or flowering,” says Samantha. “In summer, I’m pretty much here everyday, at least to do some watering. I might put in 10 to 20 hours in a busy week. I love watching the plants grow and seeing other people excited about it.”
The garden belongs to the Supported Lifestyle Hauraki Trust, which provides care for those with intellectual disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. It has areas to walk through and relax in, and there are organic vegetable beds, subtropicals and flowers. The “Lifestylers” come to the garden regularly for morning tea and barbecues, and are encouraged to help out if they want.
“It really depends on their abilities,” explains Rebecca. “One lady loves to pick peas and beans so we always make sure to plant plenty. A couple like to pick posies and there’s even some that enjoy carting heavy stuff round in wheelbarrows, which is great.”
As important as teaching gardening skills is helping the Lifestylers form friendships with volunteers who come from outside their community. “We get elderly people, mums with young kids, children. There are lovely moments and lots of joy and sharing,” says Samantha.
Both she and Rebecca are busy mums. They find time for the garden between home-schooling their kids, and they say it’s pleasing to be often told how beautiful it is. “But what’s really important to us is the way it brings people together. We’ve seen how community gardens can change lives.”