31 August 2022

A free packet of vegetable seeds from a grocery delivery has given fruit, and not just in the garden. Supported by staff they trust, Yerilama and John’s friendship and wellbeing have grown as a result of nurturing their 'plant babies'.

Close up of John and Simon gardening outdoors.

There is a thriving garden in a Darwin home, complete with a happy, blooming desert rose plant. On the surface, it seems like just another garden, albeit a healthy one, but dig a little beneath the surface, and you’ll find the roots of connection, friendship and purpose this little patch of earth brings.

The garden’s two caretakers are Yerilama and John. Yerilama is a quiet and reserved man from Maningrida country who does not speak verbally but communicates his thoughts and choices to his support team exceptionally well. John lives with mental health conditions and is supported by two staff.

The idea of the garden was planted when a free packet of seeds arrived with a grocery delivery. Yerilama showed lots of curiosity and communicated that he wanted to plant them. It did not take long for Yerilama's flatmate John to get in on the action too. Yerilama and John went with their support team to Bunnings to select more seeds and plants they wanted to grow, and they bought soil and garden equipment.

John holding a hose and watering the garden.

Yerilama and John take their role as caretakers of their ‘plant babies’ seriously. The garden is clearly the men’s source of pride. When John talks about the garden, he puts his hand on his heart and says.

“We built this.”

Simon holding a rake, gardening outside.

They work hard to grow the garden, and one example is their blooming desert rose plant. One of their workers found the plant being given away on Facebook and brought it to the men’s garden. Desert Rose plants need just the right water and temperature to bloom. Yerilama and John have cared for it well, and the desert rose is flowering.

A plant in a large pot with pink followers.

John and Yerilama have a special place in Regional Operations Manager Sameer Mohammed’s heart. He worked with them both for more than eight years, first as a disability support worker and now as the Regional Operations Manager at Life Without Barriers, Northern Territory.

“I enjoy checking in with Yerilama and John, and it’s been rewarding to see how their wellbeing has improved over the years," Sameer shared. 

"Looking after this garden has created a positive routine for John and Yerilama. Their friendship has grown too."

"Yerilama and John’s support team are invested in supporting them to do the things they want to do, and a trust has been built.

"John has progressively moved towards only needing support for four to six hours per day, and Yerilama continually progresses too,” Sameer said.

With the help of their support team, John and Yerilama have truly become a team, achieving big goals in their garden project. Consistency and a positive attitude have been the key to a harmonious household, and their support team has demonstrated this time and time again.

A person’s story is precious. We take storytelling seriously. Sometimes people are able to tell their own story, and we love that. Sometimes they ask us to tell their story for them. We always make sure they give us their ok, and we will always honour the trust placed in us to bring their story forward.

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