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SOWING THE SEEDS: The garden that’s helping overcome pandemic-induced fear in Newcastle

Local TAFE NSW Community Services student, Jie Tang has spent the pandemic supporting his Chinese neighbours and friends, including collecting groceries for them when they were too fearful to leave the house.

“It was a really confusing time for the older people with Chinese background especially, they were getting mixed messages from the Chinese government about going out and the impacts of COVID, and they were also afraid of being blamed for the so-called ‘China virus’,” Jie said.

Jie’s experience led him to approach Hunter Multicultural Communities at Waratah with the idea to develop a Chinese community garden.

“I suggested to them that gardening would be a positive and social idea, where they plant herbs and vegetables and share recipes. They had lots of questions, but they loved the idea.”

Drawing on skills he learned while studying a Certificate IV in Community Services at TAFE NSW in Glendale, Jie set his mind to building relationships in the community and planning and conducting group activities.

“The purpose of the framework unit is to give students the opportunity to practically use the theory they’ve learned to deliver a real-world community project,” said TAFE NSW Community Services Teacher, James Campbell.

“From little things, big things grow, and Jie’s TAFE NSW studies have enabled a wonderful project which is having a positive impact on Newcastle’s Chinese community.”

Community Engagement Officer Karen Varnum said incorporating the Chinese garden into the existing community garden has been a great success.

“Jie’s project has a real purpose, and it’s giving the local Chinese community a great opportunity to socialise in a welcoming environment where they plant and potter and share recipes,” said Ms Varnum.

The group meets up every second Friday to tend to the garden, socialise – and feel part of the community once again. For more information visit huntermulticultural.org.au.