Eat Like The Locals

I was born in Baghdad, Iraq and raised in Odenton, Maryland. Although I was too young to truly understand what was happening in the Iraq war, I saw how it affected my family. While my family easily adapted to our new environment, it was extremely difficult for my grandparents to accept the change. My grandparents were the core of a strong, close knit community in Baghdad and it was very difficult for them to lose everything and everyone that they knew.

Although I don’t remember it, I have heard many stories about my grandparent’s orchard and gardens in Iraq. I have seen pictures of the rows of apricot and date trees and the beautiful beds of flowers. I always knew one of my grandfather’s passions was gardening. No matter where he was living, he always had a garden.

The war took a heavy toll on my grandparents and many people from their generation. I know too many people who are still not able to grasp the fact that they can no longer live in Iraq and that their grandchildren will not experience the sense of community that they once experienced. I have seen what war and emigration can do to a person and community.

However, I also saw the joy that gardening brought my grandfather and many of his friends. Gardening was something they could always do to bring joy into their lives. I want to help refugees feel more comfortable in their new environment because I have seen just how much a simple thing like growing food can brighten up someone’s life.

When someone is forced into a new environment due to factors that were not of their choosing, it is extremely challenging for them to accept their new path. A lot of times this can cause the person to go into a deep depression. A person’s state of mental health can truly impact their lives; it will affect their physical health, their emotional health and their relationships with others. I truly believe that it is extremely important to manage a person’s mental health since it affects one’s life in so many ways. One-way to care for a person’s mental health is to help them discover and follow their passions in life.

After watching the New Roots video, I realized how important gardening is to these refugees and how, just like with my grandfather, it brings them a tremendous amount of joy. I wish to be a part of the New Roots project and help refugees connect back to their homelands through the therapeutic act of cultivating food.

Amina Touma


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