|By: Amber Brookmire|
Amber is a graduating senior at the City College of New York, majoring in Anthropology and Jewish Studies. She is participating in the 2012 CCNY-InteRDom Service Learning Program, and will serve as the InteRDom Correspondent in the CUNY system. To read more about Amber and her participation in the Correspondent program, see her profile here.
After spending two weeks working alongside the families of Cielo, we have successfully reached our gardening goals! Each day, we divided ourselves into two groups and headed into the depths of the village to meet a new family and to discover new plot of land. It was quite an adventure to reach some of these gardens. This week alone, I traveled through plantain forests, balanced on logs to cross streams and trudged through a large river with my backpack over my head!
Using a pick, shovel, gardening hoe and rake, we must first till the soil to prepare the canteros and camellones (soil beds). This has been the most challenging aspect of the project because it requires strength and stamina. Thankfully we have a very motivated group of volunteers, so the hard part goes by quickly with lots of laughter! The next step is to plan out our grid for planting. I have learned which vegetables can grow next to one another and how much space is needed between them. We then fill the soil beds with spinach, lettuce, eggplant, cucumber, cilantro, peppers and tomato. I have been encouraging the families to help us with this process so that they can learn to do it themselves. Everyone, from elders to children, is excited to help transform their land into beautiful vegetable gardens!
In addition to gardening, my CCNY peers and I have been conducting interviews to find out more about some of the families we are assisting. I could see the excitement in their eyes and hear the appreciation in their voices as they described their reasons for participating in the project. Many families have some gardening experience from attending to their corn and plantain fields, but this project brings a positive new element to their life. The creation of these gardens gives them access to organic vegetables at no cost and improves their nutrition by filling their plates with color!
It has been a wonderful and challenging experience to create the gardens in Cielo. After all of our success these past two weeks, I look forward to meeting and working with the families of Bayona next week!
The blog also provides useful information for students and inspires lively debate and increased interest in exchange and the development of Hispaniola.