CAMDEN, N.J. - A Vietnamese Garden in South Jersey is helping older refugees stay connected to their homeland while teaching the younger generation about their roots.
Lan Dinh graduated from Penn but was born in a refugee camp. She now manages this half acre, block long garden for other Vietnamese refugees in East Camden.
"A part of creating home is growing food, is having access to the food they're used to eating at home," she said.
Drong Pham is growing Vietnamese squash, vegetables and Thai basil in the garden.
"My family, and other Vietnamese families like Vietnamese food, especially vegetables," he said.
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After school and in the summer, the elders are joined by high school students who learn about gardening and much more
"It kind of reminds them of their own family, working with people who are the same age as their mothers and grandmothers," said Daquan Washington, Youth Program Coordinator.
"It's a really great way for our students to have conversations in our community and really feel they are giving back," said Dinh.
The garden is run by Viet Lead, a grass roots non-profit working to unite the Vietnamese community in Philadelphia and South Jersey.
The city of Camden donated the land and some supplies - the garden's volunteers scavenged for the rest using found objects to build beds and trellises
"'Don't waste a single thing,' is what the elders taught us," said Phuong Nguyen from Camden.
This is the refugee style of growing, which means you grow with what you have," said Dinh.
The melons, lettuce, bok choy, herbs and peppers are the healthy bounty from this patch of green in Camden, but the inter-generational love and respect is the real reward.
"There's definitely a bond between the young and the old because the elders love teaching," said Nyraysi Robinson from Fairview.
"They're willing to share with us and just teach us all of these amazing garden tricks," said Nguyen. "It basically brings together community."
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