Once upon a time, the greenhouse at the Frances Bodden Children’s Home was a favourite place for the children and staff to spend their free time. The Home hosted open house days for the neighbouring community to buy fresh produce and showcased the fruits of their labour at the nearby Agricultural Grounds.
But invasive green iguanas and aggressive weeds took their toll and the greenhouse fell into disrepair.
When a team of 29 Dart volunteers arrived at the property last month, it was clear a lot of work was needed to restore the greenhouse to its former glory. Climbing vines covered the majority of the roof, blocking out the sunlight, and the planters were growing nothing but weeds.
Dart Community Development Manager Dominic Ross says it took eight hours of hard work to make the greenhouse fit for purpose once again.
“The volunteers spent two afternoons raking yard waste, mowing the lawn, clearing weeds, pruning and relocating existing plants, planting new seeds, and fertilising the greenhouse with over 35 bags of compost donated by Dart,” he says. “The volunteers filled a 60-foot skip with yard waste to the brim in their efforts to clean up the greenhouse and surrounding property.”
Dart employees receive four hours per month of paid volunteering leave. Ross says the volunteers pooled their monthly allotment to spend four hours each working at the Children’s Home.
“Giving back to the community is an important aspect of the Dart workforce culture,” Ross says. “Through organised volunteering, Dart aims to enhance the quality of life for present and future generations in the Cayman Islands.”
Soon, the greenhouse will be filled once more with fruits, vegetables and flowers. Horticultural experts from the Dart Nursery and the West Indian Club, Dart’s family home, planted lettuce, kale, tomatoes, eggplants, scallions, nasturtium, onions, pak choi, cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelons, spinach, peppers and sunflowers for the residents of the Children’s
Home to cultivate.
Denise Williams-Watson, assistant manager at the Children’s Home, says the restored greenhouse will provide a number of tangible benefits to the Home’s residents.
“The greenhouse is not only a source of fresh fruits and vegetables for the residents of the home, it is also an avenue where our residents learn about caring and nurturing growth, and watching life spring into being,” she says. “Our very own functional greenhouse will provide the freshest possible organic produce and help us reduce the cost of purchasing these on a weekly basis.”
Williams-Watson says the residents of the Children’s Home have a strong interest in agriculture and have even built their own chicken coops to produce fresh eggs. They are now looking forward to composting the chicken manure and other food waste to keep the greenhouse fertilised.
Ross says Dart will continue to provide support to the Children’s Home as the plants grow.
“We want to ensure this was not something we did and then walked away from,” he says. “We want to provide them with the resources and knowledge necessary to make the greenhouse a sustainable asset to the Children’s Home.”