Replacing Vacant Lots With Green Spaces Can Ease Depression In Urban Communities
Growing up in Washington, D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, Rebecca Lemos-Otero says her first experience with nature came in her late teens when her mother started a community garden.
“I was really surprised and quickly fell in love,” she recalls. The garden was peaceful, and a “respite” from the neighborhood, which had high crime rates, abandoned lots and buildings, she says.
Inspired by that experience, years later, Lemos-Otero, 39, started City Blossoms, a local nonprofit that has about 15 children-focused community green spaces across Washington, D.C. She wanted to give kids from minority and low-income communities easy access to some greenery.
Kids love the gardens, she says. It gives them a way to briefly forget their worries.
“Having access to a bit of nature, having a tree to read under, or, having a safe space like one of our gardens, definitely makes a huge difference on their stress levels,” says Lemos-Otero. “The feedback that we’ve gotten from a lot of young people is that it makes them feel a little lighter.”