Parolees give back to community through community garden project

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THERE were objections and hesitation from other partners when he first proposed a community garden project involving parolees, Board of Parole Chairman Ramon B. Camacho said on Saturday.

Board of Parole Chairman Ramon B. Camacho, right standing, talks during the gardening workshop at Kanoa Resort on Saturday.  Photo by Bryan Manabat

“At first it was misinterpreted — some thought the parolees were going to be farming. The parolees are convicted felons, and community members might be hesitant to accept them,” Camacho added.

He said he envisioned a project that allows parolees to contribute to the community.

The parolees’ role in the community garden, he added, is to provide manpower.

“The parolees cleared the area, tilled the soil, hauled out debris, and others,” Camacho said.

“In creating the community garden, I want the community to accept the parolees as members, too, of the community. I don’t want the community to push them out.”

The community garden, he added, is for the community.

It is a “shared, semi-public place where people in the surrounding neighborhood share the work and harvest in maintaining a garden space for growing fruits, vegetables, flowers or even livestock.”

Camacho said one of its benefits is building relationships with neighbors to deter crime. “Village residents earn the trust and respect of their neighbors. They also get to exercise when they garden, and the produce is healthy food,” Camacho said.

In addition, the garden can generate dollars for the community, he said.

“But the most important part here is building relationships among members of the community so we can help deter unacceptable activities,” Camacho said.

He hopes that the community garden on Tramoha Avenue in Susupe will be the “seed” that creates similar community gardens in other villages.

Camacho was one of the speakers during the free gardening workshop held Saturday at Kanoa Resort.

Besides the parole board, the other agencies and individuals in the Susupe community garden project include Northern Marianas College-Cooperative Research and Extension Education Services, the Department of Lands and Natural Resources-Agriculture/Forestry, the Saipan Mayor’s Office, 2019 Miss Earth NMI Leisha Deleon Guerrero, and Precinct 2 Rep. Tina Sablan.

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