Tapestry Farms’ gardens offer a wealth of opportunity for serving refugee communities, including through a therapeutic gardening group and a food pantry with fresh harvests. Now, RISE AmeriCorps Members are building on their accomplishments over the summer to support the growing number of refugees in Davenport.
Founded four years ago, Tapestry Farms is a nonprofit organization that empowers refugees with urban gardening and support services. Their gardens are located across the city, in neighborhoods with high reported rates of food insecurity. Tapestry Farms also helps refugees overcome barriers to education, housing, medical assistance, transportation, citizenship and more.
Esperance “Hope” Nyanduhura was Tapestry Farm’s first ever RISE Member in the summer of 2021. Throughout her first term, she used her lived experiences as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo to interpret for and lift up other refugees.
According to Executive Director Ann McGlynn, one of Nyanduhura’s most successful contributions over the summer was interpreting for a gardening therapy program. In partnership with an occupational therapist, Tapestry Farms hosted groups of refugee women experiencing physical challenges or social isolation.
The women gathered to garden together under the guidance of the occupational therapist, who went on to write an 86-page report of the successful project. Occupational therapy helps individuals with physical and cognitive problems recover skills for daily life.
Nyanduhura provided transportation for the women and interpreted for the therapist with her multilingual Swahili and Kinyarwanda skills.
“I know that it was very meaningful for Hope to play a role in that program,” McGlynn said. “It was really lovely. Actually, it was one of my favorite things from the summer.”
The gardens proved fruitful for another of Nyanduhura’s main roles - helping run Tapestry Farm’s bi-monthly food pantry. McGlynn said Nyanduhura helped coordinate the resources, which included harvests from the gardens. This year, Tapestry Farms staff and volunteers focused on growing vegetables preferred by African refugees. McGlynn said this included common vegetables in the U.S. like Roma tomatoes, onions, potatoes and spinach, as well as African vegetables like the leafy green lenga-lenga and an eggplant variety called intoryi.
For the upcoming RISE AmeriCorps service term, the members’ help will likely be in rising demand. Davenport is expecting a rush of of new refugees along with many other communities in the U.S., in part due to the Biden administration raising the cap on refugee resettlements. The number of refugees to be resettled in the U.S., from Oct. 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2022, was raised from 62,500 to 125,000. Previously, the Trump administration set the cap for refugees at 15,000.
Tapestry Farms is currently preparing to welcome a significant increase of refugees from countries like Afghanistan and Sudan. Currently, most of the refugees they serve are from Africa or Burma (Myanmar), McGlynn said.
As more refugees start new lives in Davenport, Nyanduhura and new RISE AmeriCorps Member Fadilatou Boukari will be assisting families in a variety of ways. They will continue sharing local resources: they recently hosted a trip to the Salvation Army to explain its benefits. They’ll also continue setting up appointments, helping refugees navigate systems, interpreting, and assisting with Tapestry Farm’s many other services, McGlynn said.
Overall, McGlynn said she’s thankful to the RISE AmeriCorps Program for helping to support their growing refugee community. The program gives their site the opportunity to have people with unique insight into the immigrant and refugee experience, she said.
“We’ve wanted to be a RISE site for a long time and it took us a while to build to that point,” McGlynn said. “We’re glad we’re finally there.”