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Gardening at Sharpsburg Multi-Service Center an act of love

November 14, 2018

Magenta-spiked balsam flowers, sunny-yellow marigolds and purple amaranth sparkle along 13th Street in the center of Sharpsburg, thanks to Pratap Tamang who maintains Sharpsburg Northern Area Multi-Service Center (NAMS).

In particular, Tamang’s work on the flower beds helps sprout happy feelings from patrons at the senior citizen center.

“In Pittsburgh people are so welcoming,” Tamang said. “It is the best city.”

The custodian raises blooms from seeds. Mixed into the flower beds are tomatoes and at the corner is an American flag waving its red, white and blue.

Tamang, 51, was raised in Bhutan but fled to Nepal, a country where people spoke the same language.

He and his family spent 18 years in Nepal while registering and being vetted for sanctuary in the United States. They lived in a compound and there was no education or health facilities, he said.

The hardest part of those years?

“I was not allowed to work,” Tamang said.

Then on June 29, 2011, he came to America.

He and his family are American citizens now and he owns his own home in Brookline but he retains pride in his heritage, too. This month he celebrated Dussehra, a five-day holiday which concludes with asking for blessings from elders.

His family participates in BCAP, the Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh, which provides social and cultural activities for Hindu, Buddhists and Christians. The group is is held together by language and an emphasis on family.

At the NAMS facility, Tamang is known for his pleasant manner. Kimberly Delp, director of home and community-based services, said NAMS has a variety of programs for people age 60 and older and Tamang seeks to make them feel comfortable.

His responsibility is cleaning but he enjoys brightening up the center, too, she said. Along with his colorful plantings, he talks with the patrons. He asks about the weather, and helps them in any way he can.

Tamang’s gardening around the converted church is an act of love. Each year he plants seeds he has saved from the year before. Some of the flowers are favorites from his native country.

“I like (people) happy when they are coming to the center,” he said.

Tamang is happy, too. Four generations live in his Brookline house: his mother, he and his wife, his daughter and his granddaughter. Of course, he has a garden with veggies and flowers.

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