The Africamani Community Garden in Moncton was founded by Theophile Mirimo in 2008. Mirimo fled the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo and settled in Moncton in 2002.
“More than 25 years of war, every day people are dying every day,” he said of his home country.
The peace garden, located at the entrance to Mapleton Park, was intended to provide vegetables from their homeland to fellow newcomers from Africa.
“It was really hard to find vegetables and things that would connect us to back home,” said Mirimo’s son Samy Mpunge.
He said the garden has since grown into a place of comfort for newcomers fleeing conflict and war zones.
“The garden is basically a peace garden to help people heal from what they ran away from,” said Mpunge.
Having experienced the hardships of conflict firsthand, Mirimo said that he understands the profound impact escaping a war zone to settle in a new country has on individuals and their families.
“I put myself in their shoes. I know what they feel, I know what they have passed through because I have passed through that,” said Mirimo.
With his father set to retire soon, Mpunge said he is taking the reins and is expanding the garden’s reach. He aims to welcome newcomers from war-torn countries like Ukraine, seeing parallels between their experiences and his family’s past.
“What we have been through in our past it is fairly similar but for them, it is very very new,” said Mpunge.
He hopes to inspire other communities across Canada to launch their own peace gardens, keeping in mind the teachings of his father.
“People that come from war and conflict countries – sometimes it is hard for them to trust,” he said. “One of the strengths that you have to have is you have to be very patient with them.”
Patience, he said, like he learned from his dad.