Staff members were welcomed Monday by two large plates of tomatoes and cucumbers—fruits of the East House “Hope Garden.” What a fitting name—alluding beyond what’s in the ground to the emotions rooted in the hearts and minds of every guest.
This summer’s bounty is due to the green thumbs of Zina Podvalnaia and Vasili Podvalnii —a married couple from Moldova who’ve been cleaning and repairing both Houses for six years.
While compensated for their professional services, Zina and Vasili are volunteer gardeners. Our arrangement with them is a fortunate coincidence. We had space in the yard and wanted fresh vegetables for our guests. They missed tending a garden, but didn’t have access to a plot at the apartment complex where they live. So, we provided the soil, they supplied the labor, and we agreed to share the produce. When there’s enough for staff, it’s quite a yield!
The garden, someone once said, is a mirror of the heart. Zina and Vasili are so successful because they approach the endeavor with great love—and, as Vasili points out, “No chemicals!”
Someone else said that a garden is a way of showing that you believe in tomorrow—an outlook that comes naturally here.
Like the seeds planted by Zina and Vasili, our guests are nurtured with care—at the Houses and the hospitals. And here, no chemicals either!
At the Houses and in our garden, the harvest is fruitful. While staff members gratefully leave work with cucumbers and tomatoes, the vast majority of our children and families return home in good health, with gratitude for how lovingly they were tended at our Houses.
Planted with hope and harvested with gratitude. That effectively characterizes both our Hope Garden and our hopeful guests, thanks to the loving touch of many fabulous “gardeners”—including Zina and Vasili.
I’d say it’s a pretty nice arrangement!
Tom Soma, Executive Director