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Camp Joy - Growing a hopeful and sustainable future for people on parole

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Camp Joy in Strandfontein, has set out to rehabilitate men and women on parole or addicted to substances, and to successfully reintegrate them into society.

On Sunday 21 July, as a Mandela Day initiative, Camp Joy and its contributors invited volunteers to come get their hands dirty and plant the first 40 trees at this incredible new food garden in Strandfontein, that will provide a hopeful future not only to the residents of Camp Joy, but to the bigger Cape Flats community surrounding it.

In May of this year, the international TIME magazine ran a captivating and thought-provoking cover story naming South Africa as ‘the world’s most unequal country’. In a country where inequality, poverty, gang violence and drug abuse burden societies, it is remarkable how communities prevail over these struggles and come together to give each other a hand-up.

A great example of this is the collaborative effort that is to be an organic farm at restoration centre, Camp Joy. With the majestic West Coast as backdrop, Camp Joy in Strandfontein, has set out to rehabilitate men and women on parole or addicted to substances, and to successfully reintegrate them into society.

Approximately 80-100 youths go through this programme quarterly. Not only does Camp Joy provide counselling for TB, AIDS and drug abuse, but fosters a learning environment where these men and women are encouraged to up-skill and become healthy, balanced members of society. As a part of this skills training program, the installation of this organic garden will give these participants the opportunity to maintain their own garden, grow their own food and to learn about the environment.

Launched on the 15th of July 2019, this quality food garden project is finally on track to ultimately feed not only the Camp Joy residents, but also people from soup kitchens and surrounding community programs.

Pastor Craven Engel from the First Community Resource Centre runs Camp Joy together with 11 satellite centres in the Cape Flats, and is working alongside a group of passionate people and organisations to ensure that the community members don’t merely survive, but thrive.

Bringing this 450m2 food garden to life is the team from Urban Harvest, The Art of Living Foundation and organic supplement company, The Real Thing. These three, plus Pastor Engel and the men and women from Camp Joy, will each respectively bring their own contribution to the project.

With an impressive 350 food gardens designed, installed and managed, Urban Harvest specialises in creating food gardens that are beautiful, eco-friendly, highly productive and socially impactful. At Camp Joy, the garden will generate healthy food, provide income for and teach valuable skills to the people living at the centre. Urban Harvest has already collaborated with The Real thing to create four outstanding gardens at under-resourced schools. The garden at Camp Joy will be their fifth thriving community project together. See photo above showing the establishment of the garden' 

Other funders like Reliance Compost and Prime Trees have also stepped up to the plate and donated 30 cubes of compost and 40 indigenous trees that will aid in installing the garden that should take up to 20 days to complete.

The next phase of this project will see the men and women from the centre collecting fresh eggs from free-roaming chickens and caring for and even adopting rescue dogs. These initiatives, along with the garden, will instill a sense of responsibility and real feeling of meaning in their everyday lives.

This three months to three years rehabilitation program teaches participants a variety of life and entrepreneurial skills while simultaneously teaching them to care for and take responsibility for the garden and its animals.