Date30 Apr 2020
When everything stopped and our neighbourhood closed, I went to the garden and it gave me peace. I encouraged my family to join me in the garden so we could spend precious time together as we waited for lockdown to end. There we were able to reconnect and our family dialogue came to life again because nothing is more important than being together.
I have seen many people turn back to nature at this time for hope and protection. While I have continued to work in the garden, the object that has become a faithful friend is my garden hoe. Through it I communicate with nature and cultivate the land. The rewards are not just fresh vegetables and oxygen - when I work in the garden, my heart feels safe and my mind is at ease.
My garden hoe helps me to give food to my family and those with less and I thank it for helping me. We have been enjoying spinach, salad leaves, coriander, pumpkin leaves and hot chilli. The sharing of food, grown over time in the earth makes my heart fill with joy and helps give purpose to this time at home together.
Lema Shamamba is a community leader, educator, artist, mother and storyteller who arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2009 as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In her local community in West Auckland, she is known affectionately as ‘Mama Lema’ and has worked closely with the Ranui Action Project to reduce the isolation that refugee migrant families often experience.
In 2014, Shamamba established the group Women of Hope that connects migrant women by coordinating activities such as crafting, growing indigenous foods in the community gardens, playgroups for Swahili-speaking children as well as driver license training.