Thursday, May 25, 2017


Unfortunately, I wasn't much of a “joiner” in my youth. We lived “out in the country” so it wasn't as easy to get involved as it was for kids living in town. It wasn't until my college years on a small campus that I really got involved with organizations (thank you, UC, for bringing me out of my shell). In hindsight, I wish I would have belonged to the 4-H during my youth, because much to my surprise, I find myself involved with it down here on this tropical island.
Just like many schools in Dominica, our school has a 4-H club. It meets every couple of weeks during the last hour of the school day. As a formal organization, they learn about how meetings are run. Usually they do some sort of project, such as beautifying the school grounds. Plus, they learn some of the basics about agriculture (a major source of income in my area).
Recently, a man from the village helped us build some raised gardening beds so that vegetables for the school lunch program could be started from seeds. Growing the vegetables in the raised beds protects them from animals. As you can see in the picture below, the beds were built using PVC pipe, rebar, cement, and sheet metal.
These are all pictures from a recent work day.
One of the fifth graders is busy swinging a pickaxe to get some good dirt at the base of this cliff beside the school. He is digging out hardened dirt from an old drainage ditch.
A blue wastebasket from inside the school doubles as a container to carry fresh dirt to the raised beds.
In the Caribbean, nearly everyone has a cutlass (which Americans tend to call a machete, but no one calls them by that name down here). Even the older students use the school's cutlass to trim the bushes and other activities. The picture above demonstrates how a cutlass and a hammer can be used to cut a piece of galvanized (the term they use for the corrugated sheet metal often used here).
In the picture above, many hands are working to break up some fertilizer (as in dried animal manure). Notice that our beautiful kindergarten/1st grade teacher is on the left side of this picture. She is digging into the fertilizer and breaking it up, right alongside her kids, even though she has some fancy fingernails. I bet many women in America would not be willing to do what she is doing for her students!
The blue classroom wastebasket also doubles as a pail of water. The student is using his hand to flick water onto the newly planted seedlings (look close and you can see drops of water flying through the air).

Even though it is late in the school year to get this project going, I am glad to see it happen. I think it is important for us to grow some of our own food to supplement our fledgling school lunch program, which was new for this year (last year I pretty much just ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch each day). Hopefully the children will learn some responsibility as they work to keep the plants alive with water and attention. Indeed, the 4-H program is very good for children, regardless of the country in which you live.

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