Nov 1st, 2015

Helping Hands of Youth!

sweet potatoes

Youth volunteers harvesting sweet potatoes in the Community Kitchen Garden.

One of the fun things about my job is all the people — the people that visit the Garden and the people the help us in the Garden volunteering. Last Saturday, I was lucky to work with a group of teens from HandsOn Greater Richmond Youth Philanthropy Project (a partnership between HandsOn Greater Richmond and The Community Foundation). These amazing teenagers are part of an intensive service program that  facilitates youth in Central Virginia to be engaged and active volunteers making a difference in their community.  The Youth Volunteer Project is based on the belief that everyone, regardless of age, has an innate desire and ability to give, to participate, to learn, and to create the world they want to see. Every other week, October to June, these teens volunteer on Saturday mornings. Last weekend, they came out to volunteer in the Children’s Garden as part of HandsOn Greater Richmond Day.

Youth volunteers from handson greater Richmond

Happy HandsOn Greater Richmond Youth Philanthropy volunteers after a morning of hard work.

Before they started in the garden HandsOn Greater Richmond YPP Program Manager, Erin Osiol, had the students do some quick team-building exercises. They asked their peers questions to help the group learn more about each other. They shared what school they attend and  their favorite volunteering project so far. But my favorite question was, “What do you like better cake or pie?” It was great to see everyone start laughing and get excited about the day. I think we thought about cake and pie all day!

Debugging Brasicas

Youth volunteers picking off cabbage worms in the Community Kitchen Garden .

After the team-building we divided into groups, half worked harvesting sweet potatoes and picking off cabbage worms in the Community Kitchen Garden benefiting FeedMore. The other half came with me to the Children’s Garden. My group helped replant Alliums and Narcissus that we were moving to a new location. I showed them how to space the bulbs and how deep to plant them. They got to use some creativity and lay out where to plant the bulbs.  As part of the HandOn  Day program, the Children’s Garden received a stipend, we used this money to purchase plants that we will use to teach students and teachers that visit us for field trips and workshops at the Garden. The group help plant all of these as well. It was so great to have all that help!  While we were planting I listened. It was wonderful to hear the laughter and stories of 15 students becoming friends, sharing about other volunteer experiences, and how it makes them feel to volunteer. By the end of the morning it was as if they were one team working together for a common goal.

Youth volunteer, Prakrit Shukla, from Atlee High School, agreed, “If I could say anything about HandsOn Day 2015, it would be that it reminded me of why I began volunteering in the first place. Spending the day at beautiful Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, allowed time for reflection, service, and bonding; three of the most important traits in volunteerism. We learned the significance of sustaining our environment for future generations and the importance of teamwork towards a common goal. The time I spent with my peers, now some of my newest friends, gave me the same rush of joy and accomplishment that I received on my very first day of volunteering years ago. My service on HandsOn day reminded me that no matter how much negativity there is in the world, there will always be good people out there that put themselves before others and effectively work together to create a positive change.”


Prakrit Hank Matthew

HandsOn Greater Richmond Youth Philanthropy volunteers. Pictured: Prakrit, Hank and Matthew.

Heather Veneziano is the Children's Garden Horticulturist at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

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