Dunedin North MP David Clark spent a Friday morning at YouthGrow and was very impressed with what he found. David writes…
After frequently stopping by the YouthGrow stall at the Otago Farmers Market, I visited their nursery in North East Valley, in late November.
The staff and volunteers there do amazing work. Although YouthGrow teaches horticulture primarily, its students appeared to benefit most from the opportunity to develop skills in communication, compromise and cooperation.
I was impressed by the variety of interests they intended to pursue after graduation. One student was heading off to community college to work towards a catering qualification, another student was preparing to start work at a hardware store in the new year, and one other was exploring options in IT at Otago Polytechnic.
The social learning experience at YouthGrow is fuelled by shared lunches. Small groups of students are rostered on each day to cook. They’re given a set amount of time to decide on a meal, write a shopping list, purchase their ingredients from the local store with a limited budget, and cook for however many staff, volunteers, and students (and occasionally guests!) are present for lunch.
The shared lunch at YouthGrow reminded me of the shared lunches we had at a parish and community centre I once worked at further north. Sharing food and hospitality breaks down the artificial barriers of politics, class and profession. Eating food you’ve grown yourself only makes the experience more special!
While nothing would happen without young people actively deciding to make the most of this opportunity, YouthGrow is supported by some amazing Family Works staff and volunteers.
One of the programme’s strengths is that each participant’s labour goes towards YouthGrow’s costs, with funds raised from the selling of pot plants, shrubs and produce.
"My congratulations to all involved. Let me encourage anyone reading this to consider making your next birthday gift a pot plant from YouthGrow!"