Ali Afonja and Stephanie Jackson Afonja believe a lifetime of wellness starts with planting fruitful seeds. Healthy habits that lead to forever happiness, they say, are rooted in promoting nutrition, fitness, cognition and spiritualty.
The couple, with a combined 23 years of experience in the mental health industry and each with a master’s degree in psychology, grew tired of attempting to help dysfunctional families, particularly children, with traditional methods like medication or talk therapy. Instead, they decided to come up with a way to provide tools that will feed them well into the future.
“We knew these holistic efforts would go a lot further for long-term success because we found that we give the young people tools for holistic wellness that they can use in any place or environment,” says Stephanie. “It’s long-term, basically a lifestyle change for young people.”
The parents of three children of their own ages 18, 15 and 2 started Family Restoration Services (home of the Children’s Fitness Academy) in 2007, the non-profit organization Families Overcoming Obstacles Together in 2011 and ultimately co-founded the parent company of all of their efforts, Holistic Family Solutions in Hampton, in 2013. A list of services offered to children and families illustrates the Afonjas’ dedication to teaching holistic mental health strategies. Just some of their resources and programs include nutritional counseling, yoga, kids’ sports and fitness leagues, art therapy, recipes and guided meditations.
“The majority of our clients were not just unhealthy mentally and emotionally,” says Stephanie. “We found that physically and nutritionally, many of them were also challenged. We wanted to help them rebuild in a holistic way.”
A highlight and one of their most productive projects was creating the Community Garden in 2013. After realizing that many families didn’t have access to nutritious foods, the Afonjas formed a partnership with Hampton Social Services and used grant money and a piece of land behind their building to plant a food-producing space that feeds the community and also teaches children the value of hard work.
“We saw how much crop could be yielded with just a few seeds,” says Ali. “And it’s also used for therapy. Counselors bring young people to the garden to learn how to nurture and develop another side of themselves they are not in touch with.”
A popular crop—peppers—is now being used for All Hands Hot Sauce. The Afonjas and the children set a goal of 200 bottles, with half the proceeds going to the families they serve and the other half donated to the Downtown Hampton Child Development Center.
“I felt that if the children in our area had the opportunity to have an entrepreneurial experience, maybe we could see some decrease in the violence because they would be connected to something worthwhile,” says Ali.
And there’s no doubt the Afonjas’ seeds of inspiration will continue to grow way beyond the garden.
“We want to work with clients and also help heal the community,” they say.
Becoming a member of Holistic Family Solutions for $10 per month allows access to informative articles, blogs, fitness videos, wellness classes and more. Proceeds support the garden and other services. Visit HolisticFamilySolutions.com to learn more.