This winter, help us create hope and community for displaced people with the gift of gardening

At this time of year when the weather is turning colder in refugee and IDP (internally displaced people) camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, our gardening activities are more important than ever to bring people together and give them hope for their futures.

That’s why, this winter, we are asking our supporters to give a special and lasting present – the gift of gardens and gardening. We would also love you to enter our competition with your own special seasonal plant or tradition that brings you joy at this time of year.

Music credit: ‘White’ by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons By Attribution 4.0 License.

In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, people continue to harvest produce in the Azadi Community Garden in Domiz 1 camp and tend to their home gardens across the nine camps in which we work. They’re also bringing plants and flowers into their shelters to make them feel more homely during the midst of winter.

Gardening positively impacts mental health, produces beauty, restores dignity, creates community and offers opportunities for people who have been forced to flee their homes.

Aveen’s story

Aveen Ibrahem is Lemon Tree Trust’s Operations Manager in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Aveen shares her story of having to flee Syria, what life is like for her family now, and how gardens and gardening bring hope and community to displaced people.

I have seen first-hand the impact that war can have. I am from Damascus. I fled Syria with my husband and three children when war broke out in 2011, threatening the stability of the country and forcing many people from their homes. I made the difficult decision to move my family across the border to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). I arrived in Domiz 1 camp in early 2012, when the camp was still a tented community. I was so sad to leave my home but the community in the camp and gardening helped me to build a new life.

I have been involved with Lemon Tree Trust since 2015. I love gardening and I love people. In 2019 I became the Operations Manager at Lemon Tree Trust in Domiz 1 camp. I have expanded our projects to other camps and I have recruited a network of camp facilitators to help us reach more people, in particular, through our garden and cooking competitions.

The majority of the people we support say that they garden more for psychological comfort and being part of a community than a need for food. When they are in the garden they put aside all their daily problems. They are able to create a space that gives joy and helps makes their house a home.

Our competitions, gardens and plants help provide community, seeds and tools for people to grow. We give displaced people driven from their homes hope, but also the beginnings of normality to rebuild their lives.
Please support Lemon Tree Trust’s appeal this winter to create gardens, hope and homes for displaced people. You can make a big difference.

You can get involved by giving to our appeal but we would also love you to enter our competition that my team and I will be judging. Please send us a picture of a special plant or floral tradition at this time of year that brings you and your loved ones joy and makes your house a home. More details are below…

Thank you so much.

 How your donation helps

£10 / $12 could provide refreshments at a community garden helping people socialise and spend time gardening

£30 / $37 could help provide prizes for refugees and internally displaced people taking part in our garden and cooking competitions

£100 / $122 could help provide an LTT Camp Co-ordinator to help with distributing seeds, plants and trees to displaced people

£1,000 / $1,219 could help create a new garden providing an area of green space where community members recovering from trauma can spend time tending a garden, planting seeds and re-connecting with nature

This winter, help us spread the joy of gardening

Enter our competition

– in collaboration with Grace Alexander Flowers

Our competition is open until 20 January 2023.

Please donate and enter our competition to win a signed copy of Grace Alexander’s book ‘Grow and Gather’ and some extra goodies.

All you need to do is send us a photograph or video of a special seasonal plant or floral tradition that brings you joy at this time of year and makes your house a home.

Please include a short note (1-2 sentences) about why the plant or floral tradition is your favourite at this time of year or what it means to you.

  • Do you have a Cyclamen, Amaryllis, Christmas Cactus, Poinsettia or Azalea bringing a splash of colour to your home?
  • Did you plant some paperwhite daffodil bulbs before Christmas which are now in full bloom?
  • Or perhaps you have some dried flowers like Helichrysum or Craspedia bringing some sparkly magic to darker days?

How to enter

To enter our competition:

Entries will be judged by our wonderful team in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Please note that as an entrant, you agree to us using your photographs, videos or text in our promotional materials. Please send all entries by 20 January 2023. We will notify the winner by email after 27 January 2023. No donation is necessary. Read the full terms and conditions.

Gardener stories: How your donations help

Dozkin Said Amin

“For two years, I have been benefiting from and participating in Lemon Tree Trust’s projects and activities. And my experience has been rich.  

Gardening at the Azadi women’s garden has helped to rid me of the mental health issues I had been suffering from. Cultivating the raised beds that Lemon Tree Trust has assigned to me is rewarding in so many ways.”

Jian Ahmed

“I love being a part of the Lemon Tree Trust family and my experience during the last five years has been beautiful and valuable. I have gained so much professionally in the field of gardening and administration, but personally, too.  

And I want to tell all women that nothing is difficult to achieve with hard work and persistence; our experiences shape us.”

Jumana Omar Suleiman

“Lemon Tree Trust helps to relieve the pressures of life. Over the last three years I have gained so much agricultural experience through the organisation’s various initiatives, which I am truly grateful for. 

This also reflected positively on my children; they love gardening. 

I often invite women to get involved with Lemon Tree Trust so that they can also benefit from the joy that gardening brings – whether that’s a visit to the Azadi Community Garden or entering the annual garden and cooking competitions.”

Shalal Ahmed

“I have been working with the Lemon Tree Trust for more than five years. I have gained a lot of agricultural experience in things like sowing seeds into healthy plants, nurturing them through pruning and so on. Learning these new skills has also helped me in my personal life, psychologically and with social aspects. 

I encourage everyone to start growing with whatever resources you have available to you. I promise it will be a life-changing experience!”

This winter, help us spread the joy of gardening

Lemon Tree Trust’s impact

Since 2016 we have distributed more than 150,000 trees and plants to different camps for displaced people

These trees and plants have helped give people a sense of belonging, the ability to grow their own food and provided a better living space. They are helping to ‘green’ the bleak desolate spaces into productive microclimates.

Last year we expanded our garden competitions to 9 camps with over 1,500 gardens in the running for prizes

These competitions have helped build communities by creating garden spaces in refugee and IDP camps and have empowered people, especially women, to improve their home environment. 

In 2021, the Azadi Community Garden in Domiz 1 camp in the KRI received daily visits from more than 50 women

The garden helps by giving women and their children a place to socialise and spend time cultivating vegetable, herbs and flowers for their home cooking and to distribute to vulnerable families in the camp. 


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Meet Othman Qewas: Lemon Tree Trust’s valued team member and Gawilan camp resident Our gardening activities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq are run for and by local displaced people – with Othman Qewas, our Garden Coordinator in Gawilan camp * – being one such person.  Othman is a valued member of the Lemon Tree … Continued