Lucy Torres says few people realise the power of a garden.

“Sometimes people get burnt out, so a garden can offer a slowed-down lifestyle that builds resilience and gives emotional strength,” she says.

Lucy believes the process of building up a garden is even more enriching than the end result.

That’s why she dedicates her time – for no pay – to work on the gardens within South Eastern Community Connect’s SMOOSH before- and after-school program at Eastlakes.

She loves seeing neglected school properties turn into thriving places of abundant greenery and life.

Lucy Torres running our community garden at the 40th anniversary celebration in Eastlakes last year.

Learning from nature

A teacher by profession, Lucy says gardens teach students things that aren’t found on the curriculum.

“Children don’t spend a lot of time interacting with the miracle of nature,” she says.

“Many kids are quite disconnected from gardening.

“But when a school really takes ownership of their garden, amazing things happen.”

While the Australian curriculum places emphasis on sustainability as a priority, not all schools put this into practice.

“We need to look at what we’re giving kids that they can control when it comes to the environment,” Lucy says.

It starts with things like compost bins, scarecrows, and bird baths – and teaching them how to care for their school garden.”

Eastlakes Public School comes alive

Over the past year, Lucy has slowly built up a sustainable garden at Eastlakes Public School, and she’s loved seeing children take ownership of it.

Lucy has a son with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), so she has a particular interest in seeing ecotherapy help children with additional needs.

The school recently started a class for students with ASD, and the staff love seeing these kids flourish.

Lucy recalls one boy in particular who had issues concentrating in class, who has simply blossomed since working on the garden in after-school care.

“Exploring his creativity in the garden has impacted every area of his life,” she says.

“I love seeing him explore nature from different angles.

“It’s never about me, but the kids and what they discover and engage with.”

The volunteering myth

Lucy loves being a volunteer.

She reputes the myth that volunteering is simply for people who haven’t got anything else to do.

“Volunteering is when spare time and passion collide,” she says.

“There are so many opportunities to channel your passion into roles within the community – roles that aren’t always paid.

“I love what I do and I choose to do it because it gives me so much joy and satisfaction.

“I would recommend it to anyone.”

Interested in volunteering with us? Call Sue on (02) 8338 8506 for more info, or head to our volunteering page.

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