It was Darrel's third stay at the Rikers Island correctional facility, but this time, his eight month sentence changed his life. Darrel's Correction Officer recommended that he work at the GreenHouse, a program run by The Hort through which inmates maintain a two-and-a-half acre edible and ornamental garden and several planted areas around the island. Darrel didnt know anything about horticulture and he didn't really care. Why would he? His world was focused on impressing gang members and getting girls. Flowers and beans didn't count for much.
With your generous support, prisoners who are able to participate in The Hort's horticultural therapy and vocational training program get a chance to change their lives for the better. Please help us continue to provide this crucial service by giving a gift of today.
Darrel and the other inmates learned that planting a garden took smarts, cooperation, and work. Hort educators led planning discussions, encouraged research, and facilitated a team design session. What should they plant? Should the plants be put directly in the ground or into built beds? What nutrients would the plants need? How much water?
"I found myself spending time in the GreenHouse library reading about stuff like soil amendments, plants, and building gardens. I figure I spent more time each week looking through books than I did the whole time I was in school," Darrel explains.
For individuals who have had little opportunity to express their creativity or exercise their skills in a productive matter, hands-on horticulture can be transformative. Beyond vocational training, The Hort's GreenHouse program becomes a place of healing for criminal offenders. Getting time outside in nature for several hours each day— nurturing plants and working on garden projects—increases self-esteem and self-worth. Repeat offenders who serve multiple sentences for low-level crimes have gone through life without being encouraged to reach their potential. "Never was told I could do more, never was told I could be something different. You can't just imagine a better life when all you see is what's in front of you," Darrel recalls. "The GreenHouse program showed me that I have talents. I am great at figuring out how a team can get the job done fast, and done well."
While working in the GreenHouse, inmates feel proud of their accomplishments and receive genuine validation from their counselors and their peers. When participants complete the program they have the motivation, the certificates, and the experience to peruse employment and stay out of trouble—making our streets safer and improving our communities. This program relies on your support. Please donate today.
When Darrel was released from Rikers he went on to join The Hort's GreenTeam—continuing his vocational training with The Hort by working on garden projects across the city. He was encouraged to stay in the program and focus his new found ambition on activities that not only kept him out of jail but also earned him a living.
For the first time in his life Darrel felt capable and productive—he was being a good father to his children and excelling at his job. Stealing was fast and easy but challenging himself to start on a career path took courage and pride. When Darrel graduated from The Hort's GreenTeam program he knew how to work hard, handle difficult physical conditions, and motivate himself and members of his team. He secured a full-time position with a solar panel installation company and in short time developed an installation procedure that gave his team the greatest productivity. "Now, I am crew leader and trainer," Darrel reports.Under the guidance of our horticultural therapists, GreenHouse and GreenTeam graduates like Darrel are able to move from failure to success. Your contribution can change a life. Please give generously.
P.S. The enclosed newsletter tells you more about jail-to-street, youth education, community development, and cultural programs. On behalf of Darrel and others in our GreenHouse progam, we thank you for your support.