MSOT Faculty Lead Volunteer Team for Gardening Project at Women’s Shelter

West Coast University Master’s in Occupational Therapy assistant faculty members Krikor Sarafian and Lauren Diaz led a group of students volunteering at a women’s shelter to take their service a step further.

WCU’s MSOT program helped fund a gardening project for a women’s transitional shelter near the campus. The shelter provides a temporary home for women who have been victims of abuse or are recovering from substance abuse. The MSOT team volunteers at the shelter once per week, taking care of garden maintenance, showing residents how to tend to the garden, as well as teaching group sessions to residents.

“We do see a lot of the women benefiting from the visits and the garden,” Sarafian shared. “We’re there once per week teaching groups about stress relief, socialization, and how the garden helps promote a healthy lifestyle.”

Sarafian, Diaz and MSOT students partner in teaching the shelter residents about stress relief, mindfulness, team building, healthy relationships in addition to work on the garden in the backyard.

“Sometimes we harvest food from the garden and show the residents about healthy cooking,” Diaz said. “The project proves how much OTs can impact individuals’ lives. So many people really need help outside of the hospital setting.”

Diaz described a recent project at the shelter where each person picked a pumpkin from the garden and wrote a nice word on it, then passed it around the circle until each person’s pumpkin was filled with nice comments and compliments.

“We talked about how sharing a compliment can make people feel good and perpetuate good behavior,” Diaz shared. “It’s just one small act that has so many valuable lessons: time management, sharing and communication skills.”

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