The Phoenix Garden Program Speakers' Series

Photo of Phoenix Garden logo and garden bed

The Phoenix Garden Program at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) in St. John's was created by a group of volunteers who initially connected through the NLCAHR Research Exchange Group on Horticultural Therapy.  The program offers people inside the prison with an innovative arts-based curriculum that combines mindfulness and creativity with hands-on gardening and landscaping training. The Phoenix Gardeners connect to the natural world while strengthening other bonds too—to the self, to each other, and to the community.

The Phoenix Garden Speakers' Series offers an opportunity to connect with a range of professional expertise and experience to support continuing growth and inspiration for the program.  The Speakers' Series is available through Zoom and is open to all!  We hope you will join us for these Monday evening sessions-- to meet with  a range of community, health system and academic partners who have been inspired to explore the potential of gardening for anyone who is hoping to grow new life on the inside, whether physically or metaphorically!

To obtain the Zoom Link and register for the following talks, email

Trauma in the roots of our experience: Perspectives from the field

Monday February 28, 2022 at 7:30-8:30pm Newfoundland Time  

Melissa NoseworthyMelissa Noseworthy's work has connected her with many populations of vulnerable people and the universal factor she has noticed is that they have all experienced trauma - whether interpersonal, intergenerational, or both. Trauma shapes our ability to cope as well as our resiliency in the face of stress.  Using a trauma-informed lens can help all of us to better understand and support each other.

About our presenter:

Melissa Noseworthy manages the Learning Resources Program with the John Howard Society of Newfoundland and Labrador- a voluntary, non-profit agency that provides intervention, residential, employment and related programs and services to adult and youth involved in the criminal justice system.  She holds Master's degree in Counselling Psychology as well as a Bachelor of Social Work degree. Melissa's career has taken her to Northern Manitoba and to Central and Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador. In the north, she worked in two First Nations communities in the areas of intimate partner violence and child protection. In Central NL, she worked with separated and divorced parents who were learning how to co-parent.  In St. John’s, her current work with the John Howard Society includes building and delivering programs to people involved with the criminal justice system. In this position, Melissa has been using a trauma-informed lens to develop intervention programs on Newfoundland's east and west coasts. These initiatives have involved bringing trauma-informed programs into the John Howard Society's Learning Resource Program and its Community Based Intervention Program, including an important transition towards a trauma-informed restorative justice approach to intimate partner violence. Melissa believes that, in spite of trauma, people try to do the best they can with the resources they have afforded to them. Melissa's many experiences have inspired her journey into training in trauma-informed practices and trauma counselling. She is a trained psychotherapist in Rapid Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and is currently finishing a certification in Stress, Trauma and Tension Release Exercises (TRE).

Building an Ecosystem of Care: A look inside California's Insight Gardening Program

Monday March 28, 2022 | 7:30-8:30pm Newfoundland Time  

In this talk, Jamala Taylor and Andrew Winn will tell us about the ecosystem of care that is being nourished by the Insight Garden Program (IGP), a nonprofit organization that operates in 10 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation prisons on 12 different yards. The Insight Garden Program leverages nature to promote healing, self-awareness, hard and soft skills, and resources that nurture a successful transition during the re-entry process from incarceration back into the community. IGP demonstrates a radical love of, and a commitment to the people by providing green spaces to currently incarcerated people and access to nature to previously incarcerated people.

About our presenters:

Jamala Taylor is a Re-entry Coordinator with IGP in Los Angeles/San Bernardino County. Jamala became involved with IGP while incarcerated at California State Prison- Los Angeles County after being transferred from solitary confinement at Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (S.H.U.). Jamala was sentenced to 99 years to Life, spending 15 years in solitary and 31 years overall in maximum security prisons across the state of California. As a result of changes in the law (SB260 and SB261), commonly referred to as the “youth offender laws,” he was released from prison on December 30, 2020. Jamala has recently officially joined the IGP team and has been accepted into California State University -Fullerton’s Sociology program where he is finishing his Bachelor's degree.  Jamala is a revolutionary, working for liberation and just treatment of the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated, and poor people. Jamala is also committed to developing re-entry resources for women. In addition, he is an entrepreneur, co-founding Linear Consulting and Support Services  which specializes in all things prison, beginning with “Board Preparation,'' via a correspondence course he created while incarcerated. While incarcerated, Jamala facilitated several classes (CGA, NA, Anger Management etc.) He has committed his life to combatting exploitation and oppression and to making a positive and impactful contribution to the world.

Andrew Winn is the Executive Director of the Insight Garden Program. Previously, Andrew served as Director of Project Rebound at Sacramento State, where he supported previously and currently incarcerated people by providing them with access to a high-quality post-secondary degree. As the Project Rebound Consortium’s Policy and Advocacy Co-chair, Andrew made significant contributions to successfully obtaining a yearly line item in the state budget, helping pass Ban the Box in Higher Education in California in 2020 and the Incarcerated Student’s Bill of Rights in 2021. He supported Sacramento State’s 4-year degree attainment program by leveraging his institutional knowledge rooted in higher education and the California prison system. Prior to Project Rebound, he co-founded the Underground Scholars Initiative at UCLA, a campus equity program for previously incarcerated students and he still engages with the program. Andrew has been drawn to working with people with incarceration histories by his own incarceration experience. His experience includes struggles related to poverty, mental health, re-entry, and environment, and Andrew utilizes those experiences to guide his work in the field.  Today, Andrew is a husband to Kimberlee, a dog-dad to Chiko & Pepper, and a good friend to the people in his life. The community of previously incarcerated scholars supports Andrew and it shows every time he enters a prison by the love he freely gives and receives from incarcerated people and staff. Most weekends, you will find Andrew & Pepper on hiking trails either running or walking -- his favorite trails are the ones with friends.

The Friday Wellness Group: Re-entry into Nature in St. John's

Monday,  April 25, 2022 | 7:30-8:30pm Newfoundland Time

When you think about community gardens, you probably think of a garden’s ability to grow flowers, vegetables or fruits. What you may not think of, however, is a community garden’s ability to foster personal growth within those who tend to its crops.  That growth is evident in downtown St. John’s, thanks to a partnership between Eastern Health and The Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and a grant from Eastern Health’s Healthy Communities Partnership Fund. Through the grant, the partners have developed a community garden downtown.  In addition, the Friday Wellness Group offers walking therapy, health, hope, and the opportunity for growth, among its members and within the community garden.  The program is designed for people who are living with addiction and/or other mentaa l health issues. Based on principles of recovery and harm reduction, participants in the program explore ways to live healthier lives in recovery.  In this talk, Brenda Halley will tell us:

  • About the history of the Friday Wellness Group – walking & hiking to complement traditional talk therapy
  • How the group started out small with horticulture (6 small garden beds) - therapeutic farm-to-table experience
  • The dream of a greenhouse, and how it became a reality
  • How the Friday Wellness Group is surviving the pandemic
  • Looking forward to the future and possible connections with the Phoenix gardeners!

About our presenter:

Brenda HalleyBrenda Halley, BA, BSW, RSW has been a registered social worker for over twenty years. She worked for the first seven years of her career in the field of child protection before moving into mental health and addictions services. Brenda has worked closely with community organizations throughout her career, partnering with them and people with lived/living experience to improve the accessibility and flexibility of mental health services. As an outreach social worker with Eastern Health, Brenda works diligently to break down barriers and design services that meet the individual needs of people in recovery. Brenda is person-focused and holistic in her approach, and the Friday Wellness Group is a reflection of this philosophy. The Wellness Group began approximately 10 years ago as a walking & hiking group to complement traditional talk therapy, and has grown over the past decade in both numbers and activities, including horticulture. Brenda welcomes this opportunity to share the success story of the Wellness Group, and how it has impacted her life both professionally and personally. She aspires to be a “real” gardener someday, but for now she’s happy to enjoy the learning and the journey with others.