Community farming can enrich people of all ages – physically, psychologically and spiritually.
Space of Joy is a rare public space in Longjiazhai Community. A place filled with the sweet aromas of food and laughter. A comforting and nourishing place for mothers to relax and enjoy companionship with other mothers. The women tend this community space with care, cleaning it and minding the many potted plants, made even more joyous with the pots painted by the neighbourhood children.
Longjiazhai Community, located in Guiyang City, Guizhou Province, has a fluctuating population of about 15,000, with most people coming from other parts of the province. The area is cramped, with insufficient sanitation facilities and public spaces to meet the needs of the migrant resident community. Thus, Space of Joy is an especially welcomed centre.
It was in 2018 that Guiyang Nanming Qiming Social Service Centre (Qiming) started offering activities with Longjiazhai. They set up Space of Joy in early 2019, and in the same year, PCD started supporting Qiming’s community economy project, with sustainable living workshops and community research being core components. Every month, Qiming has hosted at least two workshops at Space of Joy. Useful, down-to-earth themes include DIY fabrics, healthy eating, and growing vegetables at home. One DIY fabric participant, a former garment factory worker, has been so happy to join. “I had almost forgotten how to sew! Today’s event brought it all back!”
Ensuring children have nutritious meals is a key priority for Longjiazhai, so a few mothers initiated ‘Mothers’ Food’, a voluntary community kitchen providing lunches for children in the community. The women choose ingredients with care and ensure the meals are healthy and accessible for all: people who cannot afford to pay with money can pay with their services, helping out in the kitchen instead. The food waste is not wasted! Leading the composting at a nearby community farm, a father has rediscovered his farming skills and has become a regular volunteer tutor. Mothers’ Food also works with Qiming to teach children how to make ecoenzymes from food waste, sort garbage, and draw posters to raise community awareness.
Another project initiative has been community research, led by Longjiazhai children. Aided by Qiming, children researched a topic of their concern – such as cleaning up garbage – and presented their findings in drawings, photographs and performances. With so much creativity, Longjiazhai has come to see its community issues from a different perspective! And with a year of practice, the children have gained so much confidence, grasped the basic skills of research and interviewing, and have become more attuned to community and school issues. Teachers and carers have also been very affirming towards the children and the process. A joyous atmosphere!
We have seen from the Longjiazhai Community that community transformation is often led by an inspired group of people. With Space of Joy and Mothers’ Food bringing families and friends together, residents have been discovering other exciting ways to contribute to and improve their community. So much participation, from young to old, women and men, and whole families! So much harmony! For Qiming, it has been a wonderful opportunity to explore how community economy principles can be applied to community development.