NORTH LAWNDALE — A healing garden on the West Side will give local youth who have experienced trauma a place to find peace and calm.
The Petria’s Place Healing Garden was unveiled at the 3605 W. Fillmore St. campus of UCAN, a social service and youth development agency in North Lawndale. The sprawling garden of mostly native plants and trees has several winding paths that take visitors through several works of art, a fire pit, a water feature and a play area.
UCAN runs a residential youth center where young people struggling with unstable living situations, emotional distress or trauma can receive therapeutic support, programs and wraparound services.
Designed by landscaping firm Christy Webber, the garden is intended to work in conjunction with UCAN’s therapeutic programs to help young people reach a meditative and peaceful mental state where staff members can help them work through their emotions, said UCAN board chairman Markell Bridges.
“A garden is a friend you can visit anytime,” Bridges said. “They need a place that they can take a break. They need a place where they can think and play quietly, reflect on their past and plan for their future.”
Creating a safe place for the youth served by UCAN was a priority for the organization since so many of those young people had personally experienced situations of violence and instability, said Fred Long, UCAN’s vice president of development. Young people need to feel safe in order for them to begin to heal from that trauma, he said.
“We had been hearing from young people that they don’t feel safe going outside because of what they experienced around violence and some of the traumatic events,” Long said. “For the youth who we serve who suffered trauma, outdoor and green space is part of the therapeutic process.”
UCAN will use the garden for a horticultural therapy program in partnership with the Chicago Botanic Garden. Horticultural therapy uses plants, gardening and a connection to Earth as a platform to promote healing and mental wellness while reducing stress. The horticultural therapy program is expected to launch in the fall, Long said.
The garden’s focal point is a fountain designed to promote a feeling of relaxation and ease through the sound of rushing water.
The garden also includes a mural by Alexandra Antoine and several art installations designed by young people living at UCAN’s therapeutic youth home. Those pieces will rotate to allow the youth to showcase their talents and actively contribute to the healing garden, said Rick Fleming, a board member who sponsored the healing garden’s creation.
“We added children’s art to the garden because we learned that art is part of their healing and growth,” Fleming said.
The garden was named in dedication to Fleming’s daughter, Petria Hoffpauir. The healing garden will be a place for self-reflection where young people can come to know themselves better, Hoffpauir said at the unveiling ceremony.
“It’s maybe the most important work we can do as human beings: to understand our loves, our angers, our sufferings, our joys, our thoughts and our actions and whether they are good or bad,” Hoffpauir said.
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