“I like planting. I grew up having a farm in my country, so planting your own vegetables and eating fresh food is something I love very much.”

Originally from Myanmar, Boi moved to Clarkston in 2016. He has one sister and three brothers, and Growing Leaders has been a bit of a family affair for them. His sister May and brothers Thang and Johnny have all been Growing Leaders over the years.

Boi says that’s how he first learned about the Growing Leaders program and about Friends of Refugees. “I saw my siblings doing it, and I wanted to do it, too,” he says.

He started working at the program and loved it. Working with people from different ages and different cultures has been his favorite.

“I’ve made a lot of friendships in the program,” he says, “Even when it’s hard to make conversation together because of a language barrier, we can work together on projects. We can enjoy planting together and taking care of the garden.”

He has learned a lot about nurturing fruits and vegetables, he notes. When asked about the photo of him holding a giant squash, Boi laughs. “It was so big because we planted it in June or July and waited almost three months before picking it. We took really good care of it – giving it compost, water, weeding around it. Then I took it home for my mom to cook.”

As much as he loves learning about plants and feeling connected to the earth, he treasures the chance to hear from peers a few years ahead of him. He made two good friends through the Growing leaders program who have now graduated high school. Boi has relished the chance to ask them for advice.

“They give me a lot of ideas about my education. They give me ideas about what courses to take in school. I get to watch them as they think about college and see what steps they take.” Getting this insider knowledge feels especially important since Boi is a Senior now. He’s looking at three potential colleges and weighing what major to pursue.

Boi values having these older role models, and has loved getting to be one for young friends in Clarkston, too. As part of the Growing Leaders program, he worked at the Summer Youth Experience with children from the Kristopher Woods Apartments. They adored Boi and the other Growing Leaders. Boi remembers that one day during Summer Youth Experience, he and a few others began dancing in front of the kids. They loved it and joined in!

Those are the kinds of moments that Boi says are critical to making the community flourish. “Yes, part of the garden is assisting people with a low-income who can’t plant. We grow vegetables that go to feed families. This is important. The other part is that people from different countries come together and make new friends. I think that’s really important work.”

Your support goes towards creating opportunities like the Growing Leaders program. We can truly say that it overflows with abundance, both with produce and new friendships.

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