Recovery through Horticulture Therapy at LifeWay Network

by Sabrina Zottoli, LifeWay Social Worker

There are many benefits of horticultural therapy. It has been shown to improve cognitive, psychological, emotional, physical, social and financial wellbeing. Here at Lifeway, horticultural therapy has been the spotlight of these past couple of months within our community in the safe houses.

Remember that a safe house is a space where each member of the community, including staff, residents, and visitors, can contribute to the enrichment and growth of one another. Each person that enters the environment commits to supporting one another through their presence. A garden is an example of a restorative space to foster healing.

Committed to healing modalities for survivors, LifeWay ensures each house has the capacity for a garden and ensures proper equipment and items necessary for sustaining the garden are available. Additionally, in the last year, LifeWay supported me by granting me the funds and time to become certified in Horticultural Therapy.

With this knowledge and tools, the survivors, staff, and host community, and myself began designing and building gardens in both safe houses. The garden in LW1, the St. Anne’s Garden, has been especially healing since it was created in collaboration with another resident who assisted in every detail and helped to nurture the project. The garden is dedicated to St. Anne and to a long-term partner of LifeWay Network. St. Anne is recognized for her healing presence, nurturing spirit, and pious service, fitting for LWN’s community which cultivates an environment of recovery for one another.

Without the residents, the garden would be difficult to maintain. Growing a variety of vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, jalapenos as well as various flowers is not an easy task, and harder without great company. The effort is well worth it. One resident reported that Lifeway has had such a positive impact on her journey since she came into the safe house in March 2021. She stated, “This has felt like home for me since my first day. The staff takes their time to listen and communicate with me. I feel safe and heard at all times living here. Helping to pick out the vegetables and flowers meant a lot to me, like my opinion mattered, like I mattered. Sabrina and I spent hours ripping out all of the weeds then planting all the beautiful flowers and vegetables. We laughed, listened to music and enjoyed each other’s company.” This Resident went on to explain how positive it was on her emotional wellbeing. “I left my two children and family to come live here. I felt alone and my daily routine was absent. Knowing every day that I had to water the garden and tend to the plants gave me purpose to get out of bed. I started to see the growth in the flowers. I started to see the growth in the vegetables. Then I started to see the growth within myself. It’s really powerful to look back and see where I was in March to where I am now. I thank Lifeway for giving me the opportunity to live here, to feel safe, and to be able to express myself in a creative way.”