Ladan Haghighat volunteers for SSI in the Friendship Garden at Auburn Centre for Community.
That’s fitting because her name, Ladan, is Persian for the nasturtium flower.
Laden, originall from Iran, at the Auburn Friendship Garden.
Ladan, a former refugee from Iran, volunteers in her own community and helps her family but also finds volunteering for the wider community very enjoyable, she said.
She has been volunteering in the Friendship Garden for only six months.
Some of her family, her niece and nephew, recently arrived in Australia as refugees — the first time she had seen them in 18 years. She saw that SSI was helping themand became interested in the assistance SSI was providing.
“When I came in 1999 as a refugee there wasn’t such a service.” She said. “We suffered a lot being alone in a new country. We didn’t know the language. It was very different.
“I was very pleased with how they help them to settle now. It is much easier and comfortable for them to feel at home.”
So Ladan thought she could use her own experience and Persian language skills to be useful and help the newcomers to feel more welcome and part of the society. And it was a way she could give back something to the country, she said.
Ladan said she enjoyed gardening but dids not have a very professional approach to the hobby. She plants everything she likes
“It is very relaxing for me,” she said. “The time I want to be by myself and enjoy and relax is to be in the garden.
“I lose track of time. It is a very small garden at home but sometimes I spend two or three hours there.”
Ladan comes to Friendship Garden every Thursday and has made friends with people from many countries and from different backgrounds — people who have been refugees or are still settling in, as well as other volunteers and coordinators.
They all like coming to the garden, she said.
“Most of them straight away say ‘Good morning’ and are ready to go and do something. Sometimes you have to help them find the plant for the day but they are very keen.”
She enjoys helping. “It is very good. I do two things mostly. One is interpreting, so the coordinator can communicate with a lot of the gardeners. And I help them in the garden as well, to use my knowledge about the plants.”
Ladan also appreciates the teamwork involved. The coordinators are very consultative and always ask participants what they think, she said.
People bring plants and seeds from their old country, something that reminds them of home; for example, white mulberry, which is very popular in Iran and Afghanistan.
Ladan wants to plant a sweet lemon, which in Iran and Afghanistan is used as a medication for colds, to make the garden even more multicultural.
She has seen how rapidly the garden has developed in recent months and how some plants have flourished.
“We picked so much basil. Everyone could take some home and make pesto. Everybody enjoys what they grow here.
“You can see the result of your work in the garden as you harvest something and everyone is oh so happy. Everybody had a piece of watermelon. We had lots of carrots and beetroots.
“It’s like a baby when you plant something and see it grow and then it’s time for harvesting.
“We use everything from the garden, even herbs to make refreshing drinks.”
Ladan likes volunteering because she needs to listen and cooperate with everybody but is not obligated to anyone, only to herself.
“You show your respect for others, help the community and enjoy your own thoughts and feelings. You don’t have to but you do it because you want to and you are enjoying it.”
In Iran, Ladan was a radiation therapist. Now she is looking for a new job — something she enjoys, like volunteering, working with people.