A teacher for 40 years, Renata Gemma came to settle in Thulin for love. She kept the beautiful accent of her native Lombardy and a great enterprising drive to be useful to her village. In 2006, she invested herself in the ASBL Femmes Immigrées et Culture to continue her commitment to the Italian community and to expand her action to all the communities of Hensies. A true Mosaic of cultures, the former mining town lists no fewer than 26 nationalities.

Improve living together

To collect, promote integration and break down barriers, Renata has the idea in 2012 to create a vegetable garden at the heart of the municipality. What better place to get to know each other? In a vegetable garden, everyone goes beyond preconceived ideas and prejudices, each sharing a common interest: working the soil. Openness and curiosity are spontaneously created between people when they meet. Communication is facilitated, knowledge is shared, advice is given, this facilitates contact and allows people to get to know each other a little better. The garden is also a way to welcome new inhabitants of the village.


A vegetable garden under the school windows

In 2012 the octagon and its eight plots were installed near a local school. Women grow vegetables of their country of origin here: Spain, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco, Russia and its neighbouring countries, Equatorial Africa and obviously Italy and Belgium are represented. Thanks to the collaboration of the teaching staff, children are also made aware of cultural diversity and respect for the others. The older people open doors to the younger, they discover each other and links emerge quietly. A great tool for cohesion, the garden is also a simple and practical way to encourage them to eat healthy and natural products. The greatest reward, beyond the crops, is that at this age children consider differences normal.

One step at a time, in the right direction

Simple and effective, the garden is a fine example of a collective space that promotes and strengthens links. Respecting the rhythm imposed by nature, everyone builds new relationships little by little. It also allows all the participants to feel in control of their daily life, the best way to feel good. Every year the harvest festival is organised with produce from the garden. It allows to share vegetable harvests with the population of the village, but also and first and foremost to share a good time.