This week Voluntario Global visited an org anic garden located within T. Borda, a psychiatric hospital in Barracas housing more than 1300 patients. The garden serves as a free space for patients, volunteers and members of the community to do as they please. By day the garden is frequented by patients and members of the community alike as a form of retreat, to chat, drink mate, climb a tree, or have a snack of fresh organic vegetables.
By night it fills with music, giving the patients a free space to play music, sing, and express themselves outside the walls of the hospital. The ambiance seems to change as soon as you enter the garden gate, as the days stress, tension and fears seem to sloth off as you enter. The workers as relaxed as the visitors, bask in the sun, and take pride in their projects. Experiencing a moment of peace and happiness comes naturally surrounded in nature, with the noise of birds chirping and children playing in the background.
The garden is insecticide and pesticide free, and therefore filled with flowers and herbs such as lavendar and Calendula which naturally keep insects away. While it is filled with all sorts of vegetables from carrots, lettuce and radishes which are snacked on by visitors to mint, lavender and other herbs which help digestion or contain other medicinalvalue, this garden also holds much more than plants. Under the large pine tree where the earth is too acidic to grow anything they are using the earth to make bricks to build a bathroom in the garden. The whole that will remain will be turned into a pond, which one day will be home to the garden´s future fish. They have also made an oven out of recycled barrels which they use to bake bread and other food for patients and the community.
After a tour of the garden and an understanding of how much work has gone into making it into what we see today, and how much more is needed to realize their vision, we were also given the opportunity to meet some of the patients and experience one of the other forms of re-socialization within T. Borda. Patients and doctors alike gather nearby next to an open asado outside a the cultural centre, filled with paintings, plants, a small theatre and tables for the patients to express themselves artistically while socializing with other patients. The smiles on their faces conveyed their gratefulness to have guests join them, and were each interested in meeting us, and offering us a seat and a bite to eat. While initially I expected to feel quite isolated and threatened due to the nature of the hospitals expertise, it was quite the opposite. I couldn’t have felt more welcome or more at ease.