After vandals dowsed Carly Burd's community garden in salt, kind TikTok comments kept her afloat.
Strangers offered Burd encouragement and hope as local volunteers helped her reclaim the land.
Burd, who said she's been unable to afford necessities before, grows food for neighbors in need.
In April, Carly Burd, a UK woman who's been growing food for neighbors in need, was crushed to discover the garden allotment she manages covered in piles of salt — ruining hours of labor and enough produce for 300 families.
Burd, who lives in Harlow, Essex, had started the garden project in June of 2022 and initially believed all of her efforts had been lost. But within days of sharing her story on TikTok, she was overwhelmed by an influx of donations to her GoFundMe campaign and words of encouragement from viewers. The video has since been viewed 5 million times. For Burd, it was the hundreds of thousands of comments from viewers that kept her going.
"I think without the support of everyone, I would have completely crumbled," Burd told Insider. "Having people say: 'Well done, carry on, keep going' — that did keep me going."
Since going viral on TikTok, she's raised £250,358 (or $311,374) for her charity A Meal On Me With Love. Eventually, she said she plans to use the money to buy seed, soil, and cameras that run on solar (she doesn't have cameras trained on the allotment, Burd said, in part because there's no available electric source).
For now, she's using the publicity she received to collect donations from stores and shops and distribute them to neighbors in need.
Burd's interest in helping her neighbors comes from her own experience of going without. Burd told Insider she's lived through winters in which she couldn't afford heating. She says finding employment has been difficult because she has multiple sclerosis and lupus diagnoses, and she's familiar with her family needing more than they could afford.
"I've been there many times — being an only parent, and you're stuck in a position where you've got no one to ask. I don't have parents, and you're stuck with the question: who do you go to? There isn't anyone to go to."
When she heard about the looming cost-of-living crisis, Burd told Insider, she decided to rip up her backyard garden and plant as much food as possible. To date, Burd estimates she's helped over 1,800 people by putting together packages of fruit, vegetable, and packaged food donations for families in need.
For Burd, the mission is to keep people from feeling alone. "To help someone else means everything to me," she said. "Hopefully, it means that person doesn't haven't to go through what I went through, because someone is there for them."
Because the work feels so personal, the loss has felt personal, too; Burd told Insider she couldn't understand the vandalism: "It's beyond being nasty or being bitter, it's evil." In its aftermath, Burd has felt anxious and afraid that someone could target the land again.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Burd credits the internet with helping her feel less alone in a loss that she described as "soul-destroying." Burd said she originally joined TikTok to gain visibility for potential local volunteers, and he didn't realize her video had gone viral until her son notified her. The avalanche of kind comments (as well as some snark) was so plentiful that she felt completely overwhelmed. "I couldn't use my phone for two days," she said.
More than a month after vandals dumped piles of salt on her land, Burd and local volunteers have since spread new soil and replanted potatoes and onions. Burd, who's grateful for the support, said she's just waiting to get her confidence back. Then, she said, she'll figure out how to move forward.
According to Burd, the Essex police are still looking into the case. Burd said in a recent video that she believed the person who did this was a "grower" who understood that the salt would destroy the crops.
"It was over five kilograms worth of salt," she said in a video posted on April 12. "It wasn't a child going to his mum's kitchen cupboard and doing it just for fun. It was a lot of salt."
"I'm not gonna let them get to me," Burd said of the vandals. "Nothing will let them get to me. They could do it 50 times, and I'll still keep going. I will just keep fighting, like I always do, and keep trying to make the biggest change that I can."
Read the original article on Insider