Ainslee Stewart and children with the new planter boxesThe first four boxes have been donated to Russley Playcentre following some maintenance and beautification work undertaken at the site by the Canterbury Corrections community work team.

“Giving something back to the community is an important aspect of an offender’s sentence,” says Senior Community Work Supervisor, Jason Tana. “The Russley Playcentre project gave us the opportunity to use a community work team to do some maintenance support out of hours.”

“We get great feedback from the schools and playcentres we work with and the planter boxes are a lasting reminder of our support. These planters were built by the youth at Christchurch Men’s Prison as part of the Youth Unit carpentry training.”

“The planter boxes are fantastic and we are all so impressed,” says Russley Playcentre president, Sharyn Stilwell. "Our centre feels very privileged to be making community connections such as these".

Ainslee Stewart, a co-ordinator at Russley Playcentre, says the children can gain so much from gardening.

“This can range from exploring nutrition and healthy living, mathematical concepts of shape and size, learning to care for plants, taking responsibility, cooperating with others, developing new interests and patience while being involved in a long term project.”

“Making connections with the natural world helps them to appreciate the sounds, textures, tastes and smells from Papatuanuku (Mother Earth) and to understand their place in the environment," she says.

Russley Playcentre is a parent co-operative and is totally managed and run by volunteer parents, with limited funding. They required assistance with cleaning, maintenance and upkeep of the school so approached Community Corrections for assistance.

The community work sentence requires that offenders give back to the community against which they offended by contributing their free labour to support local and not for profit groups.

The prison also arranged vegetables from the Waiora Trust so the children would be able to plant them straight away. Morrison Bowling Avenue, where Community Corrections also do projects, donated the soil.

“The community work team is really proud of the work we have done and the contribution they have helped make. It was a real community affair,” says Jason.