How advocates in St. Cloud encourage refugee gardeners to talk about mental health 

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to discuss mental health


A group of St. A vegetable garden was planted by Cloud women in the days before COVID. It was situated on the same plot of land as the apartments many refugees from Somalia had made their home in central Minnesota. It quickly became a favorite gathering spot for neighborhood women who gathered there on warm summer evenings to talk, laugh, and dig in the dirt.

Kahin Adamspan styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>, St. The garden was first visited by Cloud Health Equity Leader, a mental health advocate and public-health practitioner. He is a Bush Foundation fellow and leader of the Somali community. He enjoys going to places where people gather to listen to their stories and get tips on how to take care of their mental health.

Kahin Adam


Adam said that he began to have conversations with the women and was soon going to the garden to get to know them. It takes time to build trust but they eventually welcomed me.” Adam began to talk to the gardeners about their mental health. The discussion blossomed after some hesitation from the women. He said, “We were able start a discussion about stress regulation.”


The garden was located on city-owned land, and was rented to women for a small fee. It was just as popular as it was productive. Adam stated, “It’s an incredible thing.” “The women grow cilantro and kale, spinach green peppers, onions garlic, cucumbers span>


Adam explained that the garden was then a shadow of itself after the pandemic season, in which many residents started to avoid gathering together in groups. He said that things weren’t much better in the summer 2021. “During COVID, I haven’t seen many of these people outside at all.”


He was disappointed to see the garden so empty and wondered how the gardeners survived.


“One thing I wanted to find out was how they were doing during COVID. How did they survive? What support systems they had.”


Adam drove past the garden earlier in the summer and was pleased to see that the women were back. They had returned because of looser health restrictions, lower case counts, and more effective COVID treatment. Adam stated, “They were back again”, “gardening and talking, drinking tea, snacking, and having tea.”


Adam, always a mental health advocate, was concerned about these women. He said that the life of a refugee is already stressful. Many members of St. Cloud’s refugee group were living on the edge due to fear, illness, and isolation from a global pandemic.


Adam stated that many of the older people in our community live in isolation. Adam stated that many of the elders in our community are already living in isolation.

Courtesy Kahin Adam
Women are drawn back by looser health restrictions, lower case counts, and more effective COVID treatment.


A number of garden members were unfamiliar with Adam and felt uncertain about his motivations. He was able to regain trust after a few visits. The women eventually told him that they were open to him talking to them about mental health issues.


He recalled, with a quiet chuckle: “Can I come back to help you guys?”


Expanded Plans


Adam is a big-picture thinker and quickly decided to offer more programming options to gardeners. He is well-connected in St. Cloud reached out to local education and health experts to ask if they were interested in visiting the garden to talk to the women.

Hani Jacobson was one of his first contacts. She is a St. Cloud-based nurse, and community health advocate. Jacobson has extensive experience working with refugees and has been with Adam on several projects. She was familiar with the garden and had visited Adam there during the pandemic.

Hani Jacobson


Jacobson recalls that the gardeners “gathered and discussed things that were important to them like their relatives back in Somalia and current events, Somalia and Kenya.” Jacobson also said that Adam and she helped “facilitate and organize” their conversations.


Jacobson is a nurse and often includes questions on mental health in her regular physical exams. Jacobson wants her patients to understand that physical and mental health are interconnected.


She believes that mental health should be the main focus in a world that is gradually moving away from the more severe phase of the pandemic. It’s so important right now. It has always been enormous, but it is even more urgent now with all the isolation and other things that have been going on.”


Jacobson stated that life can be difficult for many people who live close to the garden. Winters can be difficult for people who don’t have transportation. Summer’s long days and warm air bring a sense of freedom. This garden has been reenergized and is the ideal place for people to gather together and rebuild their communities.


Jacobson stated that many Somali refugee senior citizens and single mothers don’t travel outside during winter. They value the months when they can go out every evening. People will be out for walks in the garden. They can socialize with others in the community by going for walks.


Jacobson hasn’t yet visited the garden this summer, but she plans to. Adam asked Jacobson to speak to the women about chronic diseases and how they can access healthcare. Jacobson stated, “I’m so excited to be able visit and see what I can help.”

Adam also invited Fajir Amin from St. Cloud resident and Johns Hopkins University graduate student in education, Fajir Amin will visit the gardeners to talk about nutrition, spirituality, and food.


Amin, who was born in Washington, D.C., but has lived and worked all over the globe, believes in the link between food and spirit. Amin stated, “I became interested in food and spirituality when i started baking.” I did it because of a spiritual purpose. I wanted to lift myself and my family .”


She sees a direct connection between gardening and preparing food for loved ones. She is a Muslim and sees the spirituality in these seemingly simple acts. Spirituality is not only found in a church, a mosque, or a temple for some people. You can also find it in the woods, gardens, or banks of a river. It is even possible to cook for your family.


Amin stated that she will speak to the gardeners’ group about self-actualization, and the positive emotional growth that comes from sharing something with others when she meets them later in the summer.


“I will be tying nutrition, food and gardening together. Even something as simple as watching a seed turn into a fruit can be inspiring.”


Amin stated that she understood why Adam took so long to win the trust of gardeners. She plans to communicate her message in words that resonate with their worldview. “We will be using Koranic references to food, plants and food, and talking about food mentioned by the Koran such as honey, dates, figs, olives, and bananas. We will be combining spirituality with nutrition.


Adam was amazed by how much the garden had grown since his last visit. The ground was covered with tomato plants, and the air smelled fresh herbs. He could not help but associate the abundance of produce with hope.


He said that gardening is a form nature therapy and an antidote for stress. Many women find that being in the gardens is a way to cope with stress. He said that they also enjoy socializing in the garden. Anxiety, cognitive decline, and stress are all linked to social isolation and loneliness. These women are part of a tribe that values social interaction and gatherings. They get some .”

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