The coronavirus pandemic has left many seniors isolated, with gathering places like community centers closed. Immigrants and refugees with a language barrier have faced even more difficulties and fewer opportunities to socialize, according to Michael Neguse, Southeast and East African program coordinator for the nonprofit Seattle Neighborhood Group.
For nearly nine years, Neguse has facilitated a group of East African seniors volunteering at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands in South Seattle, which also stopped during the pandemic. He was hearing from community members scattered all around King County that they missed it. “Michael, can we come to the farm?” they asked him.
Three months ago, the program started again. “When they started coming here, they feel better. The feedback is very positive,” said Neguse. “This is a good getaway for the seniors. They can come here, walk … meet their friends, eat good food.”
The tranquil farm near Pritchard Island Beach is green and lush with willows and rows of crops, as well as old-growth berry bushes and orchard trees. The wetland cools the air in the warm sun. The farm was buzzing with activity on a recent Friday, with young children in summer camp roaming and teens in the Rainier Beach Youth Stewards job program working alongside the East African seniors, tackling intensive weeding and mulching together.
After a few sweaty hours of farm work, they gathered in the shade of the large community kitchen for a traditional meal, coffee and tea.
For more information about visiting the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands or volunteering there, go to http://www.tilthalliance.org/about/rainier-beach-urban-farm-wetlands. For more information about volunteering with the Seattle Neighborhood Group, visit https://sngi.org/
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