First Growers: wrapping up our sustainable initiative

As we wrap up our project and look back on what we have accomplished, we feel that we were able to meet the goals we set when we began our work with Growers First.  Through our First Growers initiative, we created a community outreach program that can be both profitable and sustainable, developing a resource that provides benefits to the community of El Socorro today, while also fostering tomorrow’s resources.  Furthermore, our team found a way to further incorporate Growers First with the community by specifically addressing a need that was identified as being the community’s top priority from the 10 Seeds Technique: education.  By analyzing the Honduran education sector and identifying weaknesses in this sector, we were able to create projects that not only filled educational voids but also further incorporated Growers First with the community. 

Following our presentation to the class and the community partners, we continued communication with Gus Danjoi, one of the Growers First board members that we have been working with throughout this project.  Based on some of his input and in-depth knowledge of Growers First’s operations in El Socorro, we further discussed certain aspects of our project to better ensure the true success of our project in the long-run. 

  • First, Gus recommended that some sort of a “champion” be selected from within Growers First and within El Socorro to supervise the implementation of the First Growers garden at the El Socorro schoolhouse and ensure its overall success.  Doing so would allow for multiple perspectives and input in a more organized fashion. 
  • Furthermore, we learned that Growers First currently works with COHORSIL, a coffee mill in the nearby town of Siguatepeque.  We think that one role of the “champions” could be to expand the existing relationship with this coffee mill to develop a stronger link between it and the community.  For example, this coffee mill, aside from processing coffee beans, also germinates seeds in its greenhouse, resulting in seedlings.  Though we had initially said that the students would need to acquire plant seeds with which to plant the First Growers garden, seedlings, such as those found in the COHORSIL greenhouse, would actually allow for more efficient and effective plant growth.  By expanding the relationship between El Socorro and COHORSIL, the “champions” may even be able to secure seedlings for the students to use in the First Growers garden! 
  • Finally, in the event that a team were to take over the project, as opposed to leaving it to be supervised by the “champions,” Growers First could help reach out to churches in the El Socorro area or to other US-based colleges, like Wheaton College, who may have more of the necessary time and resources to participate in further supervising the project and making sure that it can be a sustainable success. 

Overall, our group is really happy about the work we have accomplished with Growers First over the course of this semester.  We feel strongly about our project and believe that we have created a foundation that can continue to be sustainable and built off of even after our time with Growers First ends.  It is our hope that the First Growers initiative will not only be sustainable but also have a positive impact and strengthen the educational institutions in El Socorro, Honduras.

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Service-Learning Symposium

On Tuesday, April 29th, the GW Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service hosted the second annual Service-Learning Symposium to showcase the unique educational experiences undergraduate and graduate service-learning students at GW have had in the greater Washington, D.C. community throughout the spring 2011 semester. 

All service-learning classes were invited to present a poster and/or a formal presentation. After the group presentations two weeks ago, the class voted on which group should represent IBUS4900 at the symposium and Growers First: Business to Business (B2B) won! Jared Eisenberg and Stefanie Thompson presented on behalf of the group at the symposium.  In a short presentation, they did a great job discussing the challenges of service-learning and the integral role it played in bringing IB theory into practice.  

Please watch Jared and Stefanie present on behalf of IBUS4900 below and leave your feedback and reflections on the class overall in the comments!    

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Growers First: Our Plan for First Growers

Now that we have an idea (“First Growers” garden initiative) that we’re excited about, it’s time to think about how we can actually see to it that this idea is realized in El Socorro.  Following are some of our thoughts: 

Location

We need to find a location near the school at which to establish the garden.  To do this, land surveys will need to be conducted to find the area nearest the school that would be best for planting.  Furthermore, the nearest water source would need to be located.  As the garden is going to be a school project, it is not necessary for it to be located near where any of the students live, as no work will need to be done on an individual basis, outside of the team and school setting.  Furthermore, we want to ensure that the garden is near the school so that students do not need to travel out of their way to tend to it, because we want to be sure that we do not put any of the students at unnecessary risk off school grounds.

Materials

It must be decided which plants and vegetables are going to be grown in the garden.  The members of the community are most likely to know which plants can and cannot grow in the area, so their help would need to be enlisted.  Then, out of the seasonal plants and vegetables, the students could begin working in their teams to decide which plants they want to include in their garden.  Once all of those decisions have been made, the seeds for those plants would need to be acquired.  This would need to be done in one of two ways: through Growers First or through donations from the farmers of El Socorro.  Finally, tools and materials to plant and maintain the garden, such as water, shovels, hoes, rakes, etc., would need to be acquired in a similar fashion.

Through all of this, we hope to get the community involved and to get the students excited about learning.  We want to instill in the students the idea of leadership and the skills that are necessary to succeed as farmers, which is the industry that the community of El Socorro is based on.  By getting the younger members of the community, the students, interested in farming and sustainability at an early age, they will, hopefully, be able to help with sustainability in the community over the long-run.  We want the older students to act as models for the younger students; the younger students, ideally, will see the older students and want to be team leaders in the First Growers garden in the future, leading to even longer sustainability.

Participants

In order for our project to be a success, it is imperative that several specific groups of people are willing to actively support and participate in this initiative.  

  • Growers First – Growers First must be willing to see this initiative through, given that implementation of this project will go beyond the scope of this course and will require a close connection with the community of El Socorro.  
  • School - As excited as we may be about this project, if the students in the El Socorro school and their teacher are not excited about it, they will not be willing to put in the necessary effort to make the project successful.  However, it is our belief that giving the kids responsibility and showing them that they are cared about and have not been forgotten will help to make them more invested in their education and, thus, more willing to go to school.
  • Community – The community of El Socorro must be willing to support this initiative, through the provision of their insight, advice and support of the student garden.

With all of this in mind, we need to find concrete ways to ensure that all of this gets achieved!

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Martha’s Table: sturdy and sustainable

The semester has come to an end. We started out as five confused group members with little or no idea about who to talk to and what our course of action for the project would be. However, as we slowly and steadily progressed, we have accomplished an incredible amount of work and impact. And we’ve all learned one thing: you don’t want to get out at the wrong exit at the metro station and get lost, missing the volunteering opportunity. We gave our presentation and finished our final report, and we’ve all done a great deal of research and phone calls for quotes to pick up cardboard. And it has truly been a wonderful experience for all of us.

Just today we met with the Director of Operations at Martha’s Table, Dominick Musso, and explained our proposed recommendations and alternatives for assisting with Martha’s Table’s sustainable initiatives. During the process, we also expressed our sense of accomplishment and fulfillment knowing that we will make a tangible difference at such a great organization. As busy as Dominick is, he couldn’t read the entire report right then and there, but we explained a few of our most valuable recommendations. We provided contact information and other helpful tips to ease off the effort on Dominick’s part and he will most likely implement at least one of our ideas. Our hope is that in the future, more organizations and groups will recognize MT’s green efforts and eventually follow suit.

And to Professor Helm: Please have future project groups work with Martha’s Table too! The students will love it and Martha’s Table will surely appreciate it!

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Growers First: “First Growers”

As we said in our last post, we wanted to place the majority of our focus for this project on education within the community of El Socorro, Honduras.  Considering that children in Honduras rarely get past the 6th grade, we wanted to focus on the older students and keep them  engaged and excited about their education.  To achieve this, we wanted to create an interactive program for these students to teach them how to incorporate sustainable ways of life into their community, simultaneously making sustainability fun and developing sustainable initiatives. However, no one in our group has a background in education of any sort, so it was time to do some research and get creative. 

After a brainstorming session in which we felt we were going around in circles, Dani mentioned a program from his old high school.  This program, from the American School of Barcelona in Spain, is called the SEED (Student Exploration, Experience and Discovery) program.  It meets once a week and pairs older students in the school with younger students, allowing the older students to act as a mentor when working on various projects.  Due to the fact that we were looking for a way to really involve the older students in El Socorro, we thought that a program like SEED, which empowers the older students and helps to teach them leadership skills, might be a good influence and starting point for our project.  We were thinking that our spin on the SEED program will focus primarily on entrepreneurship, creative thinking, and team building.

Keeping SEED in mind, we then thought of the idea of implementing a project called “First Growers,” which will work to truly incorporate children into Growers First and their operations in the area. The ideal process would bring in Growers First farmers to teach what the children, especially the older ones, need to know about sustainable farming. Older kids would then have to teach the younger ones about sustainable practices. Again, we wanted to focus on older kids because of their high dropout rate and believe that placing them in leadership roles within such teams will encourage them to attend school.  Finally, the students would work together to develop, plant, maintain, and harvest a school garden.  Once the plants are harvested from the garden, the students may then not only be able to keep the garden sustainable year after year by reusing and planting seeds from the plants that they grow, but may also be able to sell the plants grown in their garden to members of their community in order to earn a profit to help purchase materials for their school. 

Our goals through the “First Growers” initiative include battling high attrition rates among the older students in El Socorro, getting kids excited about education and sustainability, empowering the students by teaching them leadership and sustainability practices, and getting the kids to become directly involved in the work that Growers First is doing in their community.  Details and implementation plans need to be worked out, but we certainly feel as though we have a solid idea here, and we’re excited to further develop it!

Posted in education, farmers, Growers First, stakeholder engagement | Leave a comment