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People living with severe mental illness (SMI) often struggle to find employment for a variety of reasons, including the fact that people frequently misunderstand the nature of their condition.
Huertomanias is a community garden cooperative run by a group of people living with SMI that provides a source of livelihoods for the people involved. The interactions that the team have with other community members over the course of selling their produce also provide opportunities to address and overcome the ignorance and prejudice other people often show towards their conditions.
Some of the people involved with Huertomanias shared what the initiative means to them:
"Huertomanías has been a great incentive for me. Before coming here, I didn´t work, I had nothing to do. Now I have a permanent job, I´m earning money and I´m able to spend it on my own things... and that´s just part of it. Not working, and just staying at home, without a job, doing things around the house, didn´t fulfill me. There always has to be a special reason to know that you´re doing something to make progress... or else, days go by and you can´t find anything to do. That is deadly." - C. 42.
"Huertomanías is a beautiful experience, sharing time and knowledge with our customers and with volunteers, sharing new experiences. We teach each other, we help each other, and that is comforting, and it makes us feel better." J.S. 55.
Check out this video to find out more about their work:
Huertomanias is making a strong positive impact in the lives of the people involved. However, having not conducted a formal evaluation, they face a challenge in proving and communicating this impact. At the same time, while the project aims to become self-sustaining, they face a challenge in putting in place the right business model to make this possible.
Ember and Huertmanias are working together on an evaluation of the programme, via a participatory-based research project in collaboration with Ecuadorian academics.
We are also working together to develop a more robust business plan for the initiative, with diversified funding streams.
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