Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Gardening gift just keeps growing

Fatima Jacobs (left) and Sophie Edwards are two of the teenage mothers learning to grow vegetables. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Fatima Jacobs (left) and Sophie Edwards are two of the teenage mothers learning to grow vegetables. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Three teenage mothers will be among the first Auckland members of a voluntary scheme that helps people to start a garden, then pass on the chance of a garden to someone else.

Hand Over A Hundy gives $100 of seeds, plants and compost to households wanting to start a garden, on condition they pay over the $100 to another family a year later with the money they have saved by growing their own vegetables.

It also matches new gardeners with volunteer mentors who help them to get started and are on call when questions come up.

The scheme, designed to be self-sustaining after that initial $100, started in Ashburton in 2010 and has spread to Christchurch, Southland and the Waikato.

This spring it will launch in Auckland, starting with an Onehunga home for teenage mums and two boys' homes run by the Youth Horizons Trust, as well as families across the city.

"There has been a huge amount of demand for Hand Over A Hundy to come to Auckland," said Nicole Curin-Birch, a journalist and mother of three who worked for the schools-based Garden to Table Trust before taking on the voluntary role of getting Hand Over A Hundy off the ground in the metropolis.

"We want to show that Hand Over A Hundy - growing your own food - can work in any environment. You can live in a flat and grow your own food, or you can be a young family and grow your own food, or you can be in a home for teen mums and grow your own food."

The trust contacted Garden to Table seeking help for their teenage mums to learn gardening.

They didn't quite fit Garden to Table, which helps primary schools teach children how to grow and cook their own food, but they were perfect for Hand Over A Hundy.

Fatima Jacobs, 16, of Papakura, who is due to give birth in September, is keen to learn gardening skills "because I'm a vege person".

Sophie Edwards, 18, whose baby is due next month, was scared of worms and slugs at first, but as soon as she planted her first seedling she wanted more.

"You're a natural," her personal adviser, Shana Valente, told her.

Ashburton mother of four Jade Temepara, 32, came up with the idea of Hand Over A Hundy while working for Birthright, which helps sole parents develop living skills and independence.

"I realised that a lot of them lacked the skills and the knowledge and the time [for gardening]," she said.

"So I did a lot of teaching myself with the families, but I knew it was not as effective as one-to-one with mentors."

She took the idea of the "hundy" to her local newspaper and invited people to apply. Ten families joined up and now there are nearly 50 in the town.

In Auckland, Ms Curin-Birch is recruiting families in Otara through Otara Health.

For more information contact auckland@handoverahundy.org.nz, www.handoverahundy.org.nz

- NZ Herald

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