Breakaway’s backyard garden has always been an important space for community and connection. Since we moved to our Parkdale home in 2011, our staff and clients have poured countless hours of love and hard work into our outdoor space. When the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, we had to come up with creative ways of keeping our community safe while continuing to connect with our clients. Our outside space became one of the few places where we could safely connect with one another face to face.
The challenges posed by COVID-19 highlighted the various ways that we could use our garden to build relationships with each other and the earth. At first, we used the garden to provide outdoor counselling spaces for our clients who could not meet with us virtually. This grew into a larger project, with clients and staff working together to grow fruits, veggies, and herbs to supplement our grocery program and help combat food insecurity. The garden also became the site for Breakaway’s memorial space, a project spearheaded by our Grief, Loss, and Wellness program. Three years in, our garden has grown to become a community space where everyone can contribute, share their knowledge and skills, and connect with one another over growing seedlings and fruit harvests.
Breakaway’s garden is an opportunity to learn and grow together as we work to create a space that serves the social, emotional, and spiritual needs of our community. The garden provides a space for people to connect with parts of themselves that they may have forgotten or not had a chance to connect with. It also acts as a non-clinical therapeutic space that allows for healing beyond the counselling room. Most importantly, this backyard space empowers people to develop a closer relationship with all the life blooming in our garden: from growing plants and pollinating insects, to our client’s pets sniffing around in the dirt, to the people working together to make our space beautiful and welcoming.