Leonieke Zuiddam (left) and her partner Taro Merkman in front of plant shelves made by one of their apprentices at Self-Made care farm.
ST. EUSTATIUS–Made in Statia has launched a new community care farm called Self-Made, offering work experience to socially challenged youngsters and adults.
“Working with hands and minds on cultivation to grow food and plants is a learning activity that creates much personal satisfaction,” says the garden centre’s Leonieke Zuiddam.
The centre looks after three acres of land that comprise a plantation with greenhouses, a horticultural nursery and a shop that sells produce, flowering plants and garden supplies. Operators are Taro Merkman and his partner Zuiddam.
“Our idea of creating a care farm is based on our track record with local youths and adults,” Merkman said. “Our work experience, creative workshops, training and job coaching provide purpose and direction. We are currently working with the Labour Office of the public entity through the ‘Everyone Participates’ program. We are also reaching out to educational and mental health care offices to expand.”
“Some people for one reason or another are not able to do a fulltime job,” Zuiddam explains. “With our guidance, they can rebuild their confidence and self-perception and social skills are much improved. The same principle holds true for some who have fallen afoul of the law. Those we would like to offer similar opportunities. We are already working closely with the Probation Service.”
Zuiddam said the same principle applies to older children with learning difficulties. “Sitting in class without any participation has little value. It is better to spend at least some time in the week learning about caring for nature and acquiring the satisfaction of working in a team.”
Lamar Redan has worked closely with youths and adults at the garden centre. “At first, they are shy and withdrawn, but quickly they are drawn into the group and get the feeling for work. When that happens, they do not want to stop. Their confidence soars, their motivation sharpens and their social interaction is better.”
Zuiddam expects that plans to build a restaurant and create a children’s farm before the end of the year will also provide different kinds of occupational experience. “We are very grateful for the financial support from the Dutch Cooperating Funds (“Samenwerkende Fondsen”). We are also calling on local government for extra means to assist us with subsidy, tractor rental and continuous water supply.”
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/self-made-care-farm-starts-in-st-eustatius