Horticulture therapy in a nutshell is a professional practice that uses plants and gardening to improve mental and physical health. Thus, its benefits to children in particular, are manifold as they mature and strive towards maintaining healthy lifestyles.
For this reason, the UCSI Group SDG Secretariat Office together with UCSI University’s Psychology Student Association (PSA) organised the event “Gardening Together For A Better Future”. The partners for this event were Sekolah Kebangsaan Melawati (2) and Team Selangor.
The event involved teachers and students, including those students with special needs, from Sekolah Kebangsaan Melawati (2) as well UCSI students and staff themselves.
Other than to foster the well-being of the participants, the aim of this event was to create awareness on the needs for social inclusion and climate action.
As UCSI staff and students boarded the bus from the UCSI Alumni House to SK Taman Melawati (2) on October 21, it was evident that all of them had a purpose in dedicating the time and energy for this event.
“I like kids and it’s a new challenge for me to get out of my comfort zone,” said Siti Humaira Fitriyah, a first year BA (Hons) Psychology student. Siti, whose ambition is to have a career in the field of Individual Counselling, was excited to meet the children and help those with learning disabilities.
Chuah Ai Chia, also a first year Psychology student, shared similar sentiments emphasising the need to educate children on the importance of cultivating plants for the preservation of the earth.
At the school, the students got down to loosening the soil and getting the ground ready for planting various types of vegetation. Among the plants included were ladies finger, spinach, button flower, papaya, peanut, lemon grass and many others.
As for the children, they were divided into a younger and older group where they took turns - one group having classroom activities while the other group would be doing the gardening and vice versa.
The classroom activities involved colouring and labelling plants as well as a treasure hunt where they would search for items such as dry leaves, twigs and flowers. Through these activities, the children got to learn about different types of plants while the gardening gave them hands-on experience in planting.
During the event, PSA president Koon Wei Chung reiterated the importance of horticulture therapy in ensuring the physical and psychological health of the children.
“These activities enhance the well-being of children especially those with disabilities. It gives them a chance to experience and explore nature on a deeper level. At the same time, it contributes to a sustainable future,” he said.
The day’s activities undoubtedly created an appreciation for nature and provided the knowledge to address environmental issues while making it a “greener and better world”. It was also a day for learning and fostering new relationships, both young and old. On this day, UCSI students and staff had the chance to impact the younger children with values they will not easily forget.
“This event is part of the outreach on sustainable practices, especially in caring for the environment, by appreciating urban farming and permaculture,” said SDG Secretariat Executive Director, Norani Abu Bakar.
“The project went well overall as our Psychology students were able to engage children with special needs on caring for the environment including planting. The headmaster of the school is interested in discussing the next collaboration for the high school students as well,” she added.
“Bringing it back home, one of the key activities we are planning to implement is tree planting by UCSI students. This will instil in them the importance of saving the environment and help them in securing a “greener” future,” she said. This new garden, called 'Taman Lestari' or 'Sustainable Garden' was designed by Tony Lian and Ms. Norani using the permaculture concept. Tony who guided UCSI University students on soil preparation and planting is a young refugee from Myanmar who benefitted from Permaculture Design Course organized by The Blue Ribbon Global and hosted by UCSI Alumni House. 2 other refugee interns from Myanmar prepared all the seedlings for this new garden.
This tree-planting event held at SK Melawati (2) is part of the ongoing initiative by UCSI to champion the UN SDGs. For this event, in particular, the specific SDGs addressed were SDG 4.7 - Learning to live together sustainably; SDG 13 - Climate Action and SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities.