Hmong garden serves as therapeutic center

SANGER, Calif.

Many elders in the Hmong community have found it difficult to assimilate into the American culture. But they have found the garden in Sanger offers them the familiarity of a life they left behind in Laos.

Registered psychologist Dr. Ghia Xiong explained, "Many of our elders have a lot of depression, anxiety. Unlike the mainstream they can go to the movies or they can go shopping. Many of the Hmong elders really don't have a place to go."

Now they can come to the Hmong community garden. Here some seniors can use farming as a way to dig out of a deep depression. Fresno county Mental Health Services provided $45,000 to establish the garden and a shelter for cultural gatherings.

Ger Thao is clinical director at the Center for New Americans. Thao said, "They tend to stay home all the time so this place they'll come to hang out, to do some exercise, to do some activities here so they can improve their self-esteem and feel like they are contributing to the community."

35 families are already involved with the farm. They divvy up chores among the rows of onion, lettuce, lemongrass and corn and share the vegetables with family and friends.

Family members of all ages benefit. Thao said, "As they go the farm, walk on the farm, work on the farm. It becomes very therapeutic and when they come home they feel relieved."

They also come home with food for a healthy meal.

The Hmong community garden is the first of six therapeutic gardens planned. African-American, Hispanic and Slavic communities will also have their own gardens.

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