Master Gardeners have now completed two years volunteering at Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Vancouver. In 2015, a new facility opened accommodating 73 families from outside Vancouver who stay for a few days or several months while their child receives treatment at the nearby Children’s Hospital. The Master Gardener’s goal is to grow fruit and vegetables for these families who understandably are busy with their sick children – plus often siblings of the sick child - and find getting to the grocery store time consuming and inconvenient.
Growing food at RMH is a work in progress as we discover the preferred needs of the families while tending an in-ground garden and several large planter bins. Gradually we are removing ornamental plantings on the grounds in favour of raspberries, blueberries and strawberries as we expand areas for food production. We encourage families to harvest vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, chard, potatoes, mustards, garlic, kale and herbs as they need them. We also invite parents and kids to work with us in the gardens. On a weekly basis we bring food to the 4 kitchens in the House to help those who are too busy to harvest.
Those parents who harvest the food are most appreciative, especially those who have had to abandon their gardens at home. In fact they say the presence of the gardens makes the stay more like a home away from home. For the children we have established different areas around the grounds where we grow fruit so they can experience harvesting as an exploratory adventure.
In June a father expressed an uplifting appreciation of the gardens to one of the MG volunteers Kathleen Salbuvik.
“Our 5 year old daughter Julie was undergoing chemotherapy and became listless and despondent. Julie wouldn’t get out of bed, I even had to carry her to the bathroom. One day I came into the room carrying a large strawberry. Her eyes lit up because Julie loves strawberries and asked “Where did you get that?”
I told her from the strawberry patch and did she want to get more? Julie jumped out of bed and we went outside to the strawberry patch to pick strawberries. They were big, red and delicious! Julie never had a problem getting out of bed for the rest of her stay and those strawberries helped her along the road to recovery. Thanks Master Gardeners!”
Author, Frank O' Neill, Vancouver Master Gardener