Cielo Gardens vital for refugee community

SAN ANTONIO – Each community garden around San Antonio is unique and an important green space, but Cielo Gardens on the city's North Side is vital for the refugee community. 

Some refugees rely on the garden to help feed their families and get through tough times. 

Eight-year-old Ryan Andersen learned of the garden's importance and did what he could to help out.
Cielo Gardens Q&A:

How did Ryan help?
Ryan, with the help of his family and the Summer of Service initiative, put up a lemonade stand and helped raise money to buy orange trees for Cielo Gardens. As part of the project, children find causes in the community they want to help with, and raise money to try and make a change. The organization has helped Hurricane Harvey victims, wounded warriors and residents of Flint, Michigan, who were affected by a water crisis.
How important are donations to Cielo Gardens?
"The project with the lemonade stand with SOS is a blessing, because one thing we have been talking about is bringing in more pollinating beds and more opportunities to bring different insects, butterflies, insects birds, not to mention the fruit," said garden steward Jennifer Yanez-Alaniz. "It's very important because the garden, for the most part, runs on donations."

What makes the garden so crucial to refugee families?

There are roughly 50 refugee families from all over the world, from areas like Nepal, Myanmar (formerly known as Berma) and Africa. 

"Our gardeners are people who were removed from their countries of origin because of war and persecution. They don't have anywhere to go back to," Yanez-Alaniz said.

A lot of these families are torn from their home, and they come to America, but it's not always an easy transition.

"We had hard times providing, so that's all we could do is grow, make a business out of it and feed everyone," said Bienvenu Nbaitadje, a refugee.

Nbaitadje and his mother, Josephine, escaped war-torn Chad in Africa. They were in a refugee camp in Cameroon for years, and in 2010 made San Antonio their home. They now rely on the garden to help feed their family of seven.

How many people does Cielo Gardens help?

The 600 square feet of communal space helps around 50 families. There are 120-140 consistent gardeners and at least 100 volunteers every year.

"If I were to go and do all the counting, there's no telling how many people our garden reaches. There's hundreds of people," Yanez-Alaniz said.

About the Author:

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.