Consumers at the Center for Living Independently in the CNMI are showing a potential for gardening and horticulture, recently harvesting some of the crops they have grown in the center's backyard.
Rudy Atalig and Jamil Islam, along with CLI-CNMI executive director Lydia D. Igitol, showed Saipan Tribune the sweet potatoes and taro they gathered on Feb. 22 from their small garden.
Igitol said they started the garden late last year to teach their consumers a new skill.
She said the garden was made possible with the assistance of seven students from Saipan Southern High School, who complete their required community service hours at the center.
Igitol said this is by far the largest group of students that they have accommodated so far. The students spend two hours at the center every Friday and are supervised by a teacher aide.
Besides taro and sweet potatoes, other crops that the consumers and students planted are green onions, tomatoes, eggplants, okra, and lemongrass. Their backyard also has papaya and banana trees.
Igitol disclosed that it was Atalig, a consumer and volunteer at the center, who provided the sweet potato cuttings that were planted in a small patch of land behind the CLI-CNMI buildng on Capital Hill.
Atalig, who has a garden at home in Kagman, said he was surprised to see a huge sweet potato among their harvests. He would recommend other consumers to look into starting their own backyard garden because it's “easy.”
According to Igitol, consumers at the center are taught different skills such as gardening, yard maintenance, and simple meal preparation as part of their training to become more independent and self-sufficient.
“We want them to know that there are resources in their own yard. They just have to know what they are and how they can benefit from it,” she said.
The success of the garden, Igitol said, proves that people with disabilities can do something to contribute to the community.
“We try to do as much as we can based on our consumers' abilities. We are very proud of their accomplishments,” she added.
Igitol said their harvests will be cooked island-style and will be shared by their consumers. They are looking at expanding the crops they have and possibly using their yields to raise funds to support the center's programs.
CLI-CNMI is a non-profit group run by and for persons with disabilities with the mission to ensure the rights of people with disabilities to live independently and fully integrated in the community. It provides a comprehensive range of services that include information and referral, independent living skills training, peer counseling, transportation, and individual and system advocacy.
For more information, call CLI-CNMI at 322-4304 or 03.