The Youth Unit garden has become a popular constructive activity for young men in the Christchurch Men’s Prison Youth Unit, and their endeavours have again been recognised at the Courtenay A&P Show in Kirwee.
For the past three years the young men have been learning gardening life skills and enjoying the benefits of growing flowers and cultivating and harvesting vegetables.
The gardening expertise and guidance is provided by Howard League volunteer Bronwyn Adams-Hooper who says gardening is a great activity for the young men.
“It gives them time outdoors in a peaceful environment, which can help them find calmness in a sometimes chaotic environment. It also helps them develop skills, which could lead to employment or help feed their families," says Bronwyn. "For many this is the first time they have ever tried to grow something and they learn the care and attention it takes for a seed to grow and produce food. There is a huge sense of success when this happens.”
For the past three years, Bronwyn has supported the youth to enter their produce in the Courtenay A&P Show in Kirwee. Every year, the young gardeners have had their endeavours recognised. This year they have again triumphed, winning First and Second for the lettuces, Third for potatoes and three Thirds for their roses.
"The boys work hard in the garden and they have reaped the rewards,” says Bronwyn. “Their biggest accolade is that they can say they grow award winning roses. This is one of the biggest sections in the show. They can be justly proud of their achievements.”
For the young gardeners, there is another reward; to grow, pick, then cook and eat the freshest and best food - straight from the garden.
“The boys take their work in the gardens, and especially the vege garden, very seriously," says Youth Unit Principal Corrections Officer Andy Payton. "They often talk about the garden they will have on the outside. This is a life skill they can use as a hobby and to maintain their health and wellbeing post prison. To be recognised in this way, pitted against other home gardeners at the show, is the icing on the cake.”
Two of the young men involved in the garden have pursued their newfound interest and gained employment in horticulture on release from prison.