November 7, 2023 | 2:00pm
The pandemic laid bare the fragility of global supply chains, leaving communities vulnerable. Hands On Manila (HOM) recognized the urgent need for localized solutions. Urban gardening, once seen as a valuable educational tool, emerged as a lifeline for communities facing uncertainty.
HOM’s “COVID-19 Sustainable Food Security” initiative in Servathon 2020 turned this challenge into an opportunity for transformation. By converting 10 public school spaces into flourishing vegetable gardens, HOM sowed the seeds of self-sufficiency and resilience, forging a path towards a more secure food future.
Building on the success of the previous year, HOM unveiled its “Harvest for Health” program during its Servathon 2021. Amid ongoing challenges, this initiative demonstrated the healing power of gardening. Another 10 public school vegetable gardens became sanctuaries of well-being for volunteers, students and families.
Servathon 2020 and 2021 adopted a total of 2,431 square meters of idle land to create 20 gardens that benefited 37,322 beneficiaries to date.
The said 20 adopted vegetable gardens were:
- Timoteo Paez Elementary School
- Camp. Claudio Elementary School
- Manuel Roxas Elementary School
- Silangan Elementary School
- Tipas National High School
- Capt. Hipolito Francisco Elementary School, Annex
- Sto. Rosario Elementary School
- Ricardo P Cruz Sr Elementary School
- Kapt. Jose Cardones Elementary School
- P. Manalo Elementary School
- Mandaluyong Addition Hills Elementary School
- Taguig Science High School
- Palar Integrated School
- Chosen Children Village Foundation
- 15th Avenue Elementary School, Quezon City
- Dr. Artemio E. Natividad Elementary School
- Baclaran Elementary School, Unit I
- Cipriaco P. Tinga Elementary School
- Cipriano Sta. Teresa Elementary School
- Villamor Airbase Elementary School
From the 20 adopted community vegetable gardens, HOM conducted a bi-weekly harvest of the following crops: spinach, sitaw, patola, papaya, saluyot, munggo, sigarilyas, chili, lettuce, cucumber, mustasa, okra, kangkong, pechay, patola, kamatis, talong, upo, talinum, alugbati and calamansi.
Community cohesion through gardening
Amid social distancing measures, the HOM urban gardening initiative brought communities together in a unique way. Volunteers, students, teachers, and parents collaborated to nurture these gardens, fostering a sense of shared purpose and responsibility. While adhering to safety protocols, gardening activities provided an avenue for meaningful interaction, offering a respite from isolation. Seedlings were grown and distributed, produce was harvested and cooked for the members of the schools and the community.
Through the act of planting, nurturing, and harvesting, HOM is cultivating not just vegetable gardens, but a sense of hope and agency that transcends adversity. In these trying times, urban gardening proves that even amidst uncertainty, HOM can sow the seeds of a brighter, more secure future.
On Oct. 27, 2023, Atty. Gianna Montinola and ND-Kristine Ambrosio received the bronze award from the Department of Health’s #HealthyPilipinas Awards for the “COVID-19 Sustainable Food Security” and “Harvest for Health” gardens.
HOM is grateful to all its sponsors and donors who contributed to the success of this initiative:
- American Express
- Assumption College High School Class of ’81
- BPI Foundation
- EON Group
- Far Eastern University
- ICTSI Foundation
- London Stock Exchange Group
- New World Makati Hotel
- Northern Trust
- One Meralco Foundation
- Rockwell Land
- Romulo Law
- Ted and Marianne Po
- The F31 Group
- True Value
- Wells Fargo
HOM likewise wishes to thank its past and current board of directors, friends and individual donors who gave generously and to help complete the 20 gardens in celebration of the foundation’s 20th anniversary.