Sunday, February 9, 2014

Toxic-free: Cancer patients get fresh greens grown organically

,TNN | Feb 9, 2014, 04.20 AM IST

They are a group of around 15 individual and call themselves the 'Green Souls'. Every week, they ensure that the 40-odd children, undergoing treatment for cancer at St Jude's Child Care Centre in Kharghar, are fed a healthy diet of organically grown fruits and vegetables.

The group launched the organic farming initiative within the Tata Cancer Memorial Hospital complex in Kharghar a year ago. Now, they generate around 20 kg of fresh fruit and vegetables with the help of volunteers for the hospice's kitchen. The idea was initiated by naturalist and Airoli resident Julius Rego, who used to volunteer at the centre.

The garden is located behind St Jude's Centre and the volunteers work in batches, as and when time permits.

Except for a permanent help at the garden, all the work is done by the team. "We do everything - from laying out bricks to bordering beds, planting saplings, pruning and trimming as well as harvesting. The dried leaves are collected and put in pits covered with sacking to turn them into manure, to be used for the garden," explained Rego. He added that he was offered the space by the manager of the centre, Tyaba Bilgrami, a little over a year ago, suggesting that it be put to good use. "A vegetable and fruit garden seemed ideal and that's how we started. It took a while to organize it and get volunteers but now we pretty much set," he added.

You can find a variety of produce here, from vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and spices like lemon grass, mint, oregano and fruits such as papayas, bananas and guavas. "We don't use any insecticide; everything is grown organically," added Rego.

"None of us have any horticultural knowledge or training, everything we know has been learnt from experience," said Sabita Rajendran, a volunteer. She added that to make things easier, they have installed a drip irrigation system.

The group also holds day-long workshops where, for Rs 500, individuals are taught the nuances of kitchen gardening. The money earned from these workshops is utilised for the upkeep and the development of the garden.

The group has been invited to start similar schemes at Our Lady's Home for Boys at Parel and Dongri Remand Home in Mumbai.

"The idea is to teach the inmates about cultivating a garden for their own benefit," said Rajendran. "Ideally we would like to set up similar kitchen gardens all over Navi Mumbai. Irrespective of the space available one can always grow the basics and essentials. More space would simply mean diversifying into the larger crops, but the idea is to teach and for people to learn how simple and beneficial this concept really is," they said.

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