C.I.E.L.O. Gardens is a joint project between Catholic Charities, Northside ISD Adult Education, and House of Prayer Lutheran Church with support from University of Incarnate Word’s Interfaith Council, Green Spaces Alliance South Texas and others to provide gardening opportunities for recently resettled refugees. The mission of this garden is founded upon five core principles:
- Interfaith interaction
In 2011, the President of the United States announced an Interfaith Community Service Challenge to all college and university students across the country; the spirit of that challenge is one of the core principles of the C.I.E.L.O. Gardens. San Antonio’s refugee community consists of many varying cultural make-ups that represent many religious beliefs. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Animists, Humanists, and others are working together to establish a sense of place where they can all gather together and share their love of gardening.
Education and Literacy are two of the main components behind the mission of C.I.E.L.O Gardens. Since the site provided by House of Prayer Lutheran Church is also the same location where Northside ISD and Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Services teach ESL, job readiness and self-sufficiency courses, as well as provide for other refugee resettlement services, the garden will provide opportunities for educators to incorporate the garden as a learning lab for their classes.
The C.I.E.L.O. Gardens most importantly provides the opportunity for San Antonio’s refugee population to come together and gain a focal point within the community in which they live. With multiple community based service organizations helping along side our students, the gardens provides a space that can lead to new friendships as well as leadership roles among the refugee population that will only aid in positive adjustment to their new home. It is with hope that these community roles and interactions will help our gardeners gain confidence within their new home that will lead to other educational and employment opportunities.