When You Know It’s Worth It

What a beautiful garden!

What a beautiful garden!

Sometimes (aka often) as a PCV, I wonder if what I’m doing makes any difference. I wonder if my village will show any sign of progress in 1, 5, or 10 years. Change can be so slow to happen that I often think I’ve done practically nothing with the last year and a half of my life.

And then days like today happen, and I know I’ve done something. I know my hard work hasn’t been for nothing.

Today we went to visit the home gardeners. We visited them in September, before the rains came, and most of them do not have taps at home. Therefore, without rain, they are unable to plant. Unfortunately, it hasn’t rained much this year, so the gardens have suffered. But what I saw put a HUGE smile on my face!!

In every garden we visited (5 total), there were new permaculture techniques being used. I saw intercropping, the 3 sisters, drip irrigation, mulch, compost, manure, trench beds, companion planting….in short, the main things we’ve been doing in our garden at school and at our trainings. It was amazing to see how the people have implemented these new techniques, and embraced the things I was so desperate to teach. Some of the beds were empty, and the people would tell us they had just eaten the carrots, beans, spinach, beetroot, etc.

Food in hungry bellies, what I’ve wanted all along.

Sometimes I wonder if what I’m doing has any impact, and I’m one of the lucky PCVs who actually can see that impact-tangibly, visibly. In the education sector, most PCVs have to hope their impact will come about years down the road, and they may never see real change in their school, even though it happens beneath the surface. I’ve been able to see a metamorphosis at my school, among the learners, and in the village, and I’m so thankful to see some of the changes.

Last week, I glanced at my host family’s garden (which I don’t use) and saw drip irrigation, which I had taught my host sister about during Garden Club. On my way to school, I’ve seen a garden or two that planted the 3 sisters. Learners are respectful of the garden areas at school and rush to help me out.

Change is slow, and fragile. It could be that in 5 years, nobody remembers the name of the young lekgoa girl who played in the dirt for two years. But I hope they remember what I’ve tried to teach. I hope my school still takes pride in the garden, and has blossomed into a leader in the community. And I hope fewer kids show evidence of kwashiorkor, a protein-energy deficiency, because they are eating veggies from their gardens.

I realize that when I leave, everything I’ve done with the permaculture project could completely fall apart. But I don’t think that will happen, not entirely. And to prevent that, I’m looking for an organization that is willing to fund supplies, seeds/seedlings, and a few stipends for the next 2-3 years (so if you’re interested, or know someone who is….let me know!). By having funding through the next few years, my school can focus on growing and improving the school garden, regardless of whether I’m there or not. A few ladies from the community could have temporary employment through stipends, and would be motivated to care for the garden.

The amazing thing about these home gardeners is that, despite serious poverty, they were willing to give. One lady gave us the biggest squash in her garden, and another the ripest watermelon. A lady with a beautiful forest-like garden broke off reeds of sugar cane and passed it around, and we chewed on it as she chattered about her garden, then promised to give us some later to grow at the school. The generousity of people who have far less than I do never ceases to amaze me! Ubuntu at its best.
-Jen

Stunning garden! Compost, almost forest gardening, diversity, intercropping, trench beds!

Stunning garden! Compost, almost forest gardening, diversity, intercropping, trench beds!

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Week in Photos (01/01-12/01)

It was hot. Therefore umbrellas were needed while harvesting tomatoes.

It was hot. Therefore umbrellas were needed while harvesting tomatoes.

It’s been awhile since the last Week in Photos….here’s some backlog. Sorry!!
-Jen

School yard clean-up crew! Notice the lady working with a baby tied to her back!

School yard clean-up crew! Notice the lady working with a baby tied to her back!

Bathroom break-no worries! Just leave the newborn on the seat!

Bathroom break-no worries! Just leave the newborn on the seat!

Little gardener-adorable!

Little gardener-adorable!

Dexter. In Africa, people keep warthogs as pets, and let them sleep on the furniture.

Dexter. In Africa, people keep warthogs as pets, and let them sleep on the furniture.

Week in Photos (04/11-10/11)

Keamogetse and Rorisang, part of my host family.

Keamogetse and Rorisang, part of my host family.

Here are some pictures from the last week….more sunsets, cute kids, and garden photos…PC at a glance, for me!
-Jen

Construction in the staffroom means we have to move EVERYTHING out....

Construction in the staffroom means we have to move EVERYTHING out….

...so in typical South African fashion, we make the kids do all the work.

…so in typical South African fashion, we make the kids do all the work.

And this is the mess after we moved everything, which i volunteered to organize.

And this is the mess after we moved everything, which i volunteered to organize.

The bus that visits my village....posh corps? Hmmm.....I think not.

The bus that visits my village….posh corps? Hmmm…..I think not.

Puffy white cloudy sky as I wait for transport under a tree.

Puffy white cloudy sky as I wait for transport under a tree.

Beetroot!! Look at how big they are! our garden is thriving!

Beetroot!! Look at how big they are! our garden is thriving!

The sunset reflecting off a rainshower....pretty, right?

The sunset reflecting off a rainshower….pretty, right?

Week in Photos (06/10-13/10)

My host sister won 2nd in the province from cross country!

My host sister won 2nd in the province from cross country!

Time to get caught up in weekly photos….from the past month. Sorry!
-Jen

Some (not all) of the materials that we got at the EduPlant gardening competition!

Some (not all) of the materials that we got at the EduPlant gardening competition!

Turkey sunset.

Turkey sunset.

I've taken up a new hobby-embroidery!

I’ve taken up a new hobby-embroidery!

Letters to mail. Want some mail? Send me something and I’ll write back! See “mailing info” page!

Another beautiful African sunset.

Another beautiful African sunset.