Doreen Morash, a retired middle school teacher, passionate gardener and culture enthusiast is the new volunteer lead gardener for the Community Care Garden outside the offices of Project Literacy and KCR Community Resources.
The idea for the garden came from Paul Zuurbier, executive director of Project Literacy, when food security was at the forefront of many people’s minds during the pandemic. He approached KCR Community Resources’ executive director Ellen Boelke, about a partnership to build raised garden beds in our urban setting to grow food for participants, to beautify the neighborhood and to use the gardens as a teaching tool for newcomers learning English and about the Canadian way of life. That was in 2020 and the gardens have been a huge success over the past three years, achieving its goals of education and beautification and producing hundreds of pounds of fresh vegetables for families and individuals in need. For the past two years the gardens have been generously supported by Fortis BC as a way to give back to the community.
“I liked the philosophy of what Project Literacy and KCR are doing,” says Doreen, when asked why she committed to taking the project on. “I am associated with foreigners coming to Kelowna as I provide a host family situation for students coming to learn English. It felt familiar and you can help people learn about the food we eat and Canadian culture, and I thought that was a productive thing to do for teaching and for eating healthily.”
“People who come here, they are like explorers. They leave everything they know and they want to discover new things,” adds Doreen. “Culturally it can be so different and it is a great way to learn. When I heard about the garden and its objectives, I just thought, ‘Yes, that is in tune with the way I have been living and thinking’ and I decided I would help out.”
Doreen herself has also been a lifelong explorer. She worked up north in Kitimat, Terrace and Haida Gwai in the 1970s before moving to Salmon Arm to teach and raised two sons. When she retired, she taught internationally, in schools in Colombia and Brazil for four years
“Something most people don’t know about me is that I homesteaded without electricity and running water for 7 years on the island of Haida Gwai,” laughs the intrepid Doreen.
Since moving to Kelowna 18 years ago, Doreen has been actively volunteering with a variety of organizations, including Kelowna Community Theatre, Rotary Center of the Arts, the Art Gallery, the Kelowna Garden Club and she has been part of the Master Gardener Club for the past seven years. She has also helped at Helen’s Acres and Food for Thought before taking on the Community Care Garden.
“Yes, yes I will,” says Doreen enthusiastically when asked if she will do it again. “We’ve lost some plants here with the urban setting. Some plants have definitely been pulled out and some just go missing. But it’s not as many as I had thought.”
“One of my favourite stories about this garden is that I had planted some prime tomatoes that were a little bit different and would be interesting for everybody to watch the development of,” laughs Doreen. “Then one morning while Paul was watering, the plant was gone and its place was a $20 bill stuck in the dirt. Maybe someone wanted to go shopping in our garden – I don’t know. I took the money and bought more plants like lettuce, spinach and kale to plant.”
“Or maybe someone noticed that sometimes plants do go missing and wanted to help,” continues Doreen. “So many people stop and ask me about the plants when I am working out here. It’s been a good exercise for building community. It has great energy.”
Doreen’s pride in choosing the variety of vegetables to grow well and also support the learning opportunity is very evident as she inspects how the globe eggplants, zucchini and other vegetables are doing. She also chose to grow brussel sprouts this year, which are tremendously interesting to see grow.
As the Head Gardener Doreen chooses the vegetables that are grown and where they will be planted and helps to maintain the gardens and also teaches the volunteers that tend the gardens daily, watering and harvesting when vegetables are ready. Our sincere thanks to Doreen and all of the other volunteers who are brightening our corner of the world in so many ways.
Volunteers can apply online at: https://www.niteo.org/volunteer or go to the VolunteerConnector (www.kcr.ca) or Do Some Good (www.dosomegood.ca). To learn more about Niteo Africa Society go to www.niteo.org or check out their socials @niteoafrica. You can email Antonia directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources. If you are interested in sharing your volunteer or organizational news, please contact Dorothee at email@example.com.