Rosmarie was recently asked to submit an article about volunteerism. Last weekend we sat down and had a conversation to capture some of her ideas concerning nature, community, well-being, and volunteering.
As our name suggests, Helping Nature Heal is a landscaping company with a strong ethic of conservation and environmental restoration. In our eleventh year now, we work closely with our clients to create more sustainable landscapes. We pay close attention to the needs of the soil, plants and critters in those landscapes, but our company also recognizes the human dimension of the equation. Helping and healing nature is deeply connected to helping and healing people. How can we help nature heal when we lack the skills, knowledge, and opportunities to reconnect with nature? This is where volunteerism becomes central to our mission. The clients who come to us want us to help them live in closer connection with nature, but we want to extend that opportunity to as many people as possible so that our business can have an effect on communities and ecosystems as a whole.
My commitment to nature and volunteerism comes from a very personal place. There was a point in my life, a very low point, when I was asked to think about a time when I felt safe, important, honoured, engaged. I thought of myself as an 8-10 year old, escaping the troubles of home in the woods, being with nature. I realized that in order to heal, I needed to create that space in my life again— that’s why I created this business. When I volunteer with people who are in a troubled place in their own lives, I identify with their feelings of hopelessness and loneliness. If, by teaching them to grow something, I can help them feel more hopeful and less alone, if they can face tomorrow feeling empowered by the knowledge and skills I’ve shared, then I know that I am helping them heal themselves the way that I did. Of course, not all of the volunteer work that I do is with people in crisis— it is not only people in crisis who benefit from engaging with nature. Gardening can help anyone feel a sense of peace and accomplishment. And when I reach someone through my volunteer work, I know that the effects will ripple outward. The impact that volunteering can have on people and nature is limitless.
I operate my company on the faith that the energy that I put into the community as a volunteer will eventually make its way back to my business. I was brought up to believe that there’s a kind of universal math, that when you give, someday it will come back to you, even if it’s years later. For example, I’ve worked very hard on a project called the Hodge Podge Community Garden. In the first year alone, I put in over 500 hours helping to organize, design, and construct an inclusive space in Bridgewater for people to grow food. When I offer my energy to that project, I don’t expect the people I meet there to become my clients. But somehow, new clients have found their way to us. Even though they are not connected to the garden at all, I know that it is the energy that I put in coming back to me. That said, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone bite into the first tomato that they grew for themselves, tasting their efforts. This is much more powerful than money. Seeing people gathering at that garden—excited, happy, grateful, learning new things—is my dream coming true.