Tucked in the back corner of our Community Centre, past the soccer pitch and theatre, is a little plot of land. There, bananas, lettuce, garlic, chili, okra, papaya, spinach and many other herbs and exotic veggies grow in carefully tended raised-beds.
It is CCT’s Kitchen Garden, where children learn about gardening and nutrition. Everyday, children gather at a picnic table, under a round wooden gazebo to learn about plants, food and healthy living, as part of CCT’s Life Skills program.
Sovannarith, the gardening teacher, teaches the kids about soil and how to prepare it properly for the raised garden beds, as well as teaching them how to create different types of compost.
Seven-year-old Hong*, has attended the gardening and nutrition classes for a few months now. In that time, he has most enjoyed learning about compost.
“I like it because it helps the vegetables grow. And the vegetables keep me healthy!”
Our Life Skills program ensures children are equipped with practical skills they need for becoming independent, healthy adults. In addition to gardening and nutrition, children learn about sexual and reproductive health, and health and hygiene.
“CCT wants all the kids to gain important and useful skills,” says Sovannarith. “They can then use the skills from these lessons to live successful, happy lives.”
CCT gave Sovannarith the opportunity to do a permaculture course to learn about agricultural systems. He jumped at the opportunity and at the completion of the course, he put his hand up to become CCT’s Kitchen Garden teacher.
“I’m glad I can give back to CCT and the children. By knowing about permaculture, the children can grow healthy food for themselves and, if they want, they can even earn a lot of money from this type of work,” says Sovannarith.
When the fruits and vegetables are ready to be eaten, some are used to cook nutritious meals for the children attending the Youth Centre, and the rest is given to the kids in the classes and the families CCT works with.
Thanks to the gardening classes, Hong knows a lot about how to grow different types of fresh produce. Learning to grow bananas is the thing he enjoyed the most so far. He knows the type of soil that helps banana trees grow and how much the trees need to be watered. But his favourite bit remains when he gets to eat the bananas when they’re ready to be picked!
*Name has been changed to protect privacy