Gardens & Goodbyes

A dear friend of mine was admitted into hospice care this week. After battling cancer for many years, her body is tired…She is preparing to say her final goodbyes. This woman has been a champion for the marginalized throughout her life. Gardening was a hobby of hers and in a conversation with her mother, she reflected that not only did she garden vegetables and flowers, she gardened people. She tended to their needs and was able to see and bring out the beauty in others. Just like seeds and dirt don’t seem like much to begin with but sprout and bloom in to things of beauty, so she saw those who we often overlook or misunderstand…women caught up in sex trafficking, the economically poor and disenfranchised, those who struggle with mental health and addiction…she saw these individuals and nurtured them with a hospitable presence, kindness, and a fierce commitment to walk alongside them. 

When she comes to mind, I picture her tending to her garden, or sitting on her porch in the sunlight sipping on her coffee. And since she has come to mind a lot over the past few days, I’ve also been thinking a lot about gardens, and this idea of gardening/caring for people. 

Gardens & NITEO

NITEO is a Latin word with many layers of meanings. It means to shine brightly, radiate, sparkle, glisten. However, when talking about fields and plants it means flourishing or thriving. I love the image of a rich, fruitful, and vibrant field or garden. When the field has been properly tilled, fertilized, and watered, it will grow to provide a harvest that will feed and nourish many. And this is NITEO’s vision and hope, that we will see bright and hopeful – flourishing – futures abound. Through the opportunities that literacy and education provide, vulnerable children are given an opportunity to experience a thriving and abundant life. 

What do we mean by vulnerable? 

Locally, children of newcomers and refugees are at risk of falling behind in their academics as they navigate life in a new language, culture, and country. It is important to note that not all newcomers are behind in their studies! But the likelihood is higher. There is a vulnerability there. In addition, newcomer parents are often unable to assist with the challenges their children face as they are also focused on adapting to and surviving in a new language, culture, and country. Racism and discrimination are also realities that minority newcomers face. Refugees have the added layer of recovering from the trauma they experienced as they fled their home country due to escape war, persecution, or natural disasters. Upon arrival in Canada, they continue to worry and experience uncertainty as friends and family members are often separated and their safety can still be in jeopardy. 

Globally, children in Uganda face a national primary 6 (grade 6) literacy rate of 40%.* This means 2 in 5 children in primary 6 are literate. Approximately 52% of girls stop attending school after grade 6 due to pregnancy or marriage.** The majority of children lost almost 2 years of education during the lockdowns of the pandemic. Just this week, students arrived at schools to be sent home as there are teacher strikes scattered throughout the country.*** Once again, not all children in Uganda are experiencing this, but many are. Too many. 

What does NITEO do? 

NITEO does not provide the answer. We are not the solution. Nor are we here to save anyone. Rather, we’re one piece of hopefully an entire network of supports. We are here to come alongside children, families, schools, and partner organizations. We further literacy equity by supporting/providing access to books with minimal barriers. We support financially through global literacy focused microgrants – providing funding that will help to close gaps or provide the finances needed to startup new ideas and programs. We encourage and equip through training. We provide hospitable spaces where community can form, grow, and flourish. We encourage and celebrate growth in individuals – both our program participants and volunteers. 

Back to Gardens

I picture NITEO as one of many gardeners that are caring for these children, families, and communities. Both locally and globally there are many champions for children: parents, teachers, and community organizations who are working tirelessly to further opportunities and show genuine love and care. Like gardeners faithfully caring for their plants, we are all holding the promise of future blooms and harvests as our motivation to continue showing up day after day. We believe in bright and hopeful – thriving – futures for children.

May we all continue to use our days and our breath to work toward a flourishing future for all. 




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