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HMP Phoenix Garden Project


Business No: 108085408RR0001

HMP Phoenix Garden Project

Since 2020, what has been happening?

The HMP Phoenix Garden Project has accomplished some remarkable things since 2020, and the success of our work is largely due to the very generous donations we have received.  A really important partner in all of our work has been the John Howard Society-NL. The biggest news is that we installed a stunning 20-foot cedar greenhouse inside the walls of HMP, under the professional help from our friends--Scott and Kim Wilson from Sun Valley Greenhouses, It’s a really beautiful structure and has brought joy to HMP employees and participants in the program.  We have also built two raised beds outside the greenhouse and have had an outstanding harvest of carrots, potatoes, kale and strawberries in those.  Inside the greenhouse, we've grown tomatoes, lettuce, squash and some beautiful flowers and houseplants, and everything seems to be thriving.  It's good to be outside in all kinds of weather, and the gardening project is very popular.  Over 100 participants have passed through the program and we're excited about plans ahead.   


How did the Phoenix Garden Project begin? 

In 2020, the Research Exchange Group on Horticultural Therapy at the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research, hosted a presentation by the Insight Garden Program at San Quentin Prison in California.  Luckily, a member of the local Horticultural Therapy group also happened to work at HMP.  She asked if some interested inmates might watch the presentation by videoconference.  Inspired by the program in California, and by similar programs in Nova Scotia and in British Columbia, the Research Exchange Group assembled a project team that includes a botanist from Memorial’s Botanical Gardens, horticultural therapists, educators, artists and musicians who have been meeting weekly with a group of inmates and support staff at HMP to get the project underway.  The project also relies on leadership from the inmates themselves.  The inmates have named the program, are designing its logo, and will help build the greenhouse and gardens.  Whenever it is possible, they will take responsibility for cultivation, weeding, watering, and feeding.  They will harvest from their gardens and the food they have grown will be shared with their fellow inmates and with the wider community.  In this way, the inmates will learn a lot, and will make a meaningful contribution to each other and to their community. We all work in partnership with the John Howard Society and with prison officials at HMP, all of whom are committed to helping this garden project succeed. 

During COVID:

We kept the HMP Phoenix Garden Project growing during the darkest days of COVID and lockdowns.  When we couldn't go inside HMP due to safety concerns with COVID restrictions, we continued to stay in touch with the Inside Gardeners.  Each Sunday evening, the Outside Gardening facilitators took turns writing letters to the participants at HMP, inviting them to investigate a certain aspect of gardening, complete a word search or something related to a unit from the curriculum or complete a piece of artwork.  Staying in touch with the participants helped us all keep positive.  As part of the HMP Phoenix Garden Project, we also launched a really successful speaker series, offering three virtual workshops with speakers from the John Howard Society, a local healing gardening program and participants from the Insight Gardening Program in the San Quentin Prison in California.  The Insight Gardening Program has been a key mentor for the Phoenix Garden Project and we have exchanged ideas and information often.  We continue to seek their advice and learn from the well-established program at Insight.


Diggin Deep Gardening Curriculum:

As a vocational piece with the Phoenix Garden Project, the Outside Gardening Facilitation team created a nine-module gardening curriculum.   This was an amazing accomplishment during COVID.   Participants are encouraged to work through the learning modules and complete each section in the binder.  A 'learning passport' is initialed each time an Inside Gardener participant completes a section of the curriculum, and after all of the modules are completed, participants are given a certificate.  The document Digging Deep:  Putting Down Roots is a stunning publication, printed in colour and the guys really enjoy completing the various learning tasks.  As you can imagine, the content includes various gardening-related topics:  building raised gardens, all about composting, garden pests, healthy decisions for gardening, bees and pollinators and other ideas.  We have inserted lots of mindfulness and arts-based content throughout the modules, and those help everyone reflect on the kinds of factors that affect our personal growth.  We've also made it possible to 'grow the curriculum' based on the interests of the participants at HMP. 


Why Gardening Therapy Matters

The Phoenix Garden Project at HMP offers people in the prison an innovative arts-based curriculum that combines mindfulness and creativity with hands-on gardening and landscaping training.  The Phoenix Gardeners at HMP connects to the natural world while strengthening other bonds, too—to the self, to each other, and to the community.  Participants who complete the curriculum receive a certificate of completion acknowledging their training as gardeners.  Gardening and nature-based therapies have the potential to transform lives.  The Phoenix Garden Project at HMP, like prison gardening programs around the world, has a proven potential to end ongoing cycles of incarceration, and to create a safer and healthier community for all.  On Thurs. July 14th, six Inside Gardeners from the Phoenix Gardening Project shared their opinions about why gardening matters to them and the link for the CBC CrossTalk Show with Adam Walsh is here.


Digging Deep: How You Can Help?  What's next?

We have big plans for 2022-2023!  We will be building a spiral meditation garden just down the hill from the greenhouse and transforming another piece of the land inside HMP into a beautiful area for reflection, writing, thinking and being.  This meditation garden (like the greenhouse) will all be moveable when the new prison is built, and we are conscious of this.  The Inside Gardening participants will be assisting a local landscaping team with the installation of the meditation garden, and it will be used by many supporting groups.  We are also interested in expanding the potential for the greenhouse by building wooden shelves inside the greenhouse and installing electricity and increased ventilation.  We need help to support the transformation from prison yard to beautiful garden, whether through one-time donations, or monthly recurring donations. Every gift will have an exciting two-fold result: donations will help support the ongoing work of the Phoenix Garden Project, and gifts will also celebrate the work of the John Howard Society-NL. Donations can be made through the John Howard Society-NL via Canada Helps, and will be honoured with a receipt for income purposes.


We are eager to include everyone in the excitement of digging deep and need help from all hands. We have a target of $15,000 that we know can be realized by midnight of Nov. 1, 2022 with your generosity. Go to our HMP Phoenix Garden Project webpage and imagine what your donations can purchase! Our fundraising campaign opens on July 13th – please help us expand this remarkable gardening program at HMP!


HMP Phoenix Garden Project Website: