June 1, 2011

Gardening for Mental Health: Women’s Prison Garden Update

In May, I posted a blog regarding the benefits of gardening for our mental well-being. Nurturing plants and being in the natural world provides many people with peace and a sense of well-being. My landscaping team and I have been constructing and assisting in the design of a garden at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, California, the largest women’s prison in the world. As I mentioned in my previous blog (link), the garden is being funded by the group “Chapel of Grace”, who work hard to positively impact women who have had difficult lives, made mistakes and are now imprisoned and often hopeless. The garden is designed to be a sacred space for reflection, prayer and perhaps fundamental change for these women. The project has now been completed and is available for use by women in the Valley State Prison. On May 17th, nearly 500 inmates and community members attended the dedication ceremony (see the video below). This garden now provides a place for meditation and quiet contemplation. It also gives the prison chapel a new, vast outdoor sanctuary in which to hold its services. The indoor chapel cannot hold all the inmates that would like to attend services. This garden provides a larger space where inmates can connect to the natural world and its creator. We have enjoyed being a part of this interesting and thoughtful project. The concept of building a sacred space for those in need of inspiration and validation is a provocative and hopeful concept that could dramatically impact individual lives and our society as a whole. We look forward to following the progress of the Garden. Stay tuned to this blog for photos and future updates on the Valley State Prison Garden.