Generosity brings healing to ‘The Farm’
Some time ago I began work in Canberra assisting women in need. I discovered that the levels of deprivation were so severe that residential care was needed to adequately address their needs.
In 2017 I was offered the use of a convent on a 3-hectare garden by the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn and, with a group of volunteers, began to restore the buildings and grounds.
We opened the doors last year with everything in place – a home for women whose lives have been depleted by substance abuse, violence and the trauma that invariably comes with these experiences.
One of the saddest fruits of the condition they find themselves in is that they are often unable to care for their children and the state removes them. Our particular focus is the restoration of children to their mothers. We want to provide a safe haven for them while they get their lives back in order and start the process of reunification with support.
Less than a year after opening, The Farm has sprouted and grown. Two clients have completed the program and returned home reunited with their children and employed. A third, after a gruelling court battle, has had her child returned to her and looks after her at The Farm, supported by staff. She came to us with a background of domestic violence, substance abuse and maternal loss and a diagnosis of PTSD. She also could not read and write. She has now completed a Certificate Three in Community Services, has begun work experience, and has her child back. Others coming into the program are experiencing similar growth.
Thanks to the generosity of benefactors we have well-qualified staff including a case manager, a psychologist with expertise in the model of treatment we are using, and a house care supervisor who teaches cooking, budgeting and gardening. A groundsman is employed twice a week.
We have developed a program to train the women in the care and protection of their children. This is facilitated by The Farm’s children’s Program coordinator and an Emerging Minds representative who trains the women to identify factors that support positive mental health in children. Work was completed in a wing of the convent to give each mother a small unit – two rooms and a bathroom – sectioned off for safety and privacy.
We are blessed with in-kind support. A local doctor is on call in person and on the phone. A local dentist gives free dental care. A board member, who is a fitness trainer, regularly coaches clients in exercise, nutrition and fitness.
Last month we planted an orchard with 23 trees, including cherries, walnuts, pears, oranges, apples and olives. When I look out at the trees, I ponder the goodness of God. It seemed at the beginning of the work that it was an impossible task. I now see the same women up early and at prayer, digging in the garden and planting, delivering seminars and writing essays. The orchard signifies something. There is growth; there might be rain and wind to test us, but there is growth.
From an empty structure on the brink of destruction, The Farm is now an energetic village. Phoenix has risen from the ashes.
Testimony from our latest graduate
I would like to thank staff at The Farm for their persistence and patience in assisting my recovery.
The journey hasn’t been easy but being at The Farm has made it a lot more comfortable and effective with their program, case management, counselling and daily counselling.
Being with other girls who have experienced the same sort of struggles has made it easier to heal and grow a stronger support network. This was also helped through classes like relapse prevention in the first six weeks, time for study and research for course work and for personal interest.
We were lucky to have an environmental educator, my personal favourite part of the week. This gave us the chance to be educated about our environment and ourselves, teaching us to cook and clean, working in the garden, growing our own veggies, learning to budget wisely and learning “to do what you can, with what you have.” This helped me to become simple and content, learning to not want material things and not to stress about things of no importance.
Being at The Farm was a time to heal and be clear minded, and to adopt positive routines for a healthier lifestyle. I was able to gain new employment for my return home.