The UWF Mental Health Nursing Care course was designated as a Carnegie Service Learning course to learn communication and teamwork during a day in the UWF Community Garden. A speaker from the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program was invited to address approximately 50 students to discuss the needs of the community, and the importance of addressing mental health issues and getting involved. Directing the effort is Dr. Jill Van Der Like (a GAL volunteer), who will be the first to tell you that mental health issues affect all of us every day. Students responded with positive feedback, and written reflections provided hope on the impact of the experiences.
“The most significant communication event I experienced was being gathered in the garden with my peers and listening to the speakers. The woman from Guardian ad Litem shared one of the most powerful stories I have ever heard. She really stressed making time for causes you feel are important. I now have a broadened view on victims and survivors of abuse.” ~Simone Agulto
These experiences shape how young students perceive their role in the community and the awareness that comes from exposure to real-life situations, ones that GAL volunteers know all too well. It is obvious this exposure has the potential to lead to a life-long commitment to volunteer activity that will benefit the community for years to come.
“The most significant event I think happened when we listened to the dramatic story of the Guardian ad Litem volunteer, Ms. Piazza. She described the emotional and empowering decision that she made following childhood events that changed her life and lives of other children. At the hearing of all those touching stories that Ms. Piazza described, I feel compelled to get involved as much as time allows in preventing child abuse. I know people in my village in Moldova, my classmates, severely abused by their fathers. At the time I felt bad for them, but as a child there was not much that I could have done. It’s a tragedy that they had to live through all that horror. I understand better, as an adult, their suffering and I will get involved here in the US, and maybe even overseas with time.” ~Anatolie Munteanu
These comments from students are representative of the group and not unique conclusions at all. It would seem that the garden setting is an inspiration for addressing mental health issues.
“Within the UWF Community Garden, both physical and emotional sustenance can be found. The food grown is minimal, but clean and sweet, but the quiet greenery is peaceful beyond anything. Even the work that is still needed brings some therapeutic relief in that you can be active and know that you are working toward something kind of awesome. The biggest opportunity I can fathom for improving community engagement is to inform people that this garden exists.” ~Meaghan Boggs
We would like to encourage you to visit the garden and share your thoughts about your experience.