Recently, many of Voluntario Global’s volunteers and coordinators ventured to Suarez where they would build a sustainable garden at a health center. The event, otherwise known as The Big Dig, had been planned for weeks. Anticipation and excitement could be both felt and seen on the faces of the volunteers and coordinators as the event site neared. The purpose of building a sustainable garden was to create a garden that could be sustained yearly and provide a social setting for the community. The produce consisted of broccoli, purple lettuce, cabbage, and chard.
A sustainable garden in Suarez is particularly significant because much of the soil in the town is polluted; growing crops, plants, and other sorts of natural products in the area is incredibly challenging thereby making this project even more important. While the garden cannot provide produce for the whole community, it serves as a perfect meeting spot for people to come together and interact with each other. Community projects such as the building of a sustainable garden help to grow a community and create a sense of common purpose as people come together to work for a shared goal.
On arrival to the site, the backyard of a medical center, the volunteers and coordinators immediately began to dig and cultivate three beds that would serve as the foundation for the garden. Mothers and children within the facility initially watched the volunteers work from the safety of the windows inside the center. While many community members were at first reluctant to come and participate, some eventually did, including a young boy. The boy helped to plant a seed that would one day blossom. As he planted the seed it was apparent that he too was a seed himself; his experience and confidence in helping with the project would soon inspire him to positively influence other kids to participate in community projects like the garden.
Though the work was strenuous, many laughs were shared and time flew by. As the beds began to look like an actual garden, more people from the community began to come out and see what was going on. Both social workers and community members helped to plant seeds that would soon transform into fresh produce. At the end of the day, with help from the community and the volunteers, two beds were completed. There is still much work to be done in this garden and, hopefully, many more like it will be completed in the near future. The goal is to encourage community participation, like working alongside volunteers and coordinators, in the construction of similar projects.
Projects like the organic garden in Suarez serve as great reminders of the necessity of including the community in volunteering projects. Even more, these inclusive activities are great stepping stones in overcoming both language and cultural barriers. In Suarez, it was apparent that the volunteers and coordinators gained much more by working with the community than simply for it.