Imagining an asphalt parking lot in Kent as a vibrant vegetable garden takes only a sliver of the faith for Nnaemeka Nwakonobi, who walked across one country after another for a new life in the United States.
"I slept in the jungle, on the floor, on the ground," he said.
After fleeing Nigeria for a better life, Nwakonobi found himself in a Washington detention cell awaiting a judge's decision to grant him asylum. It took a year.
Now a free man, he found himself tearing up a parking lot Friday with other World Relief volunteers.
"I'm not a fan of eating rice and beans. I like eating my Nigerian food," he smiled.
The lot behind Hillside Church will have 50 plots for refugee and other immigrant families to grow the food they can't find nearby. The area of Kent is called a "food desert" because the nearest grocery store is a mile away. But once people get to the store, it still lacks the food they love from their home country.
That's why the garden will grow more than food.
"It makes you feel like home again. If you're at an apartment complex and you have no attachment to the soil, no access to land, this is a way to grow food and food you recognize that you can't find at the grocery store," explained World Relief program manager Tahmina Martelly.
"A garden is a wonderful way to grow food from your own country that you've been missing, so you're able to eat healthy again and talk to your neighbors next to you."
The garden will have its first full harvest in June 2018. There's still a lot of work to do, but not anything like the work it took for Nwakonobi to get here.
"I feel great. I feel alive. I feel very happy and grateful," he said. "It's a place where everybody has opportunity to grow himself, to make anything he wants to make in life."
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