It is that time of year when homeowners and hobby gardeners are out with high hopes for their small crops of spinach, beans and tomatoes.
It is also the time of the year we can expect warm and fuzzy stories about how refugees are gardening with the help of their federal resettlement contractors and your tax dollars!
This story from Baltimore reminded me that I haven’t mentioned this additional source of payola for refugee contractors—-Refugee Agricultural Partnership grants—lately.
In addition to the per head refugee payment the contractors receive to place refugees, there are myriad grant programs available for the nine contractors and their subcontractors to keep their coffers full.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement actually gives out hundreds of thousands of dollars (about $1.5 million in the latest allotment) to the contractors (the VOLAGs) to help refugees plant gardens.
In Baltimore we learn that gardens run by the International Rescue Committee connect refugees to the earth, their cultures and their neighbors (or so we are told).
Keep reading to learn exactly how much this all costs you, and who is raking in the big bucks!
Here is the ‘news’ at something called Resilience:
One of the first points of contact for refugees entering the U.S. is often the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a nonprofit that resettles nearly 10,000 refugee cases annually [this year they aren’t placing 10,000-ed] and helps them with everything from navigating new kitchen appliances to finding jobs and learning English. This work gives refugees a good start, but from there, they still face perhaps one of the most difficult parts of the process: becoming a part of their new community.
The IRC began its New Roots program about 10 years ago in the hopes of using agriculture and community gardening to support refugees in rebuilding their lives and livelihoods.
The program works in shared gardens in cities across the United States, giving refugees the opportunity to strengthen existing skills in gardening, to preserve their culinary identity by growing culturally relevant foods, and, in some cases, to participate in farmers markets.
One participating city was Baltimore, where the IRC started up a small network of shared refugee-focused gardens by working with local churches and the Goodnow Community Center. The gardens, in churchyards and on the lawns surrounding active community hubs, quickly became busy with refugees looking to connect with nature, grow their own crops, and plug into the local food system.
But the spaces soon transcended these uses — in addition to the crops the refugees were planting, Baltimore’s gardens began to nurture a sense of social cohesion among residents.
Reading between the lines at Resilience gives us a hint that something wasn’t going smoothly, but that isn’t my purpose in writing this post. We are never going to be told about the failures and waste of money.
I want readers to know (because ‘Resilience’ won’t say it) that they are very expensive veggies these refugees are growing, and contractors, like the IRC, manage the hundreds of thousands of federal dollars to grow some culturally relevant food!
Read about the IRC’s Growing New Roots where we learn that….
“…. refugees are able to reconnect with their agrarian roots. By participating in community gardening, they have a safe space to hone their agricultural skills, grow their own food and engage with the local community.”
Office of Refugee Resettlement doles out big bucks
Imagine what kind of gardening you could do with this kind of money!
And, it looks like the IRC (“Moneybags” Miliband) has a corner on this grant program! IRC gobbled up 4 of the available grants that expire next year.
Sure hope the Trump people are advising the contractors that refugee gardening is a sweet idea to be carried out by PRIVATE CHARITY!
See past posts on refugee gardening on your dime!