Saturday, August 18, 2018

Garden Training

 It has been a lone time since I wrote a blog. It is not because we have not been busy. The truth is our growth and our service to the Ixil people have keep me too busy to tell the story that I see unfolding around me. But the story has many chapters and should be told. I want to make another attempt and share a small tale about what is happening in our garden program.
 A little over two years ago we bought a farm site and named it Eden Ixil. Paradise in the midst of poverty. It is a bold title and a cry for change. We have been using the site for an experimental farm, nursery for growing plants and a training center. Tuesdays and Thursdays find us busy giving garden clases to over 500 family gardeners. Here Felipe gives a chalk talk with many practical props. As I have reviewed these photos one thing tht has impressed me is the attention I see being given by the women. We are seeding not only gardens but hearts and minds. Change, change is coming I can see it and feel it. It started with an embrace of love for those in need. It is yet to be seen where it will lead us to but change is knocking on the door.
We mix class room talks, full of living examples, with the work that we are doing in the gardens to help fortify the garden program. Here Felipe shares some pointers on the width of garden beds and how to layer compositing materials to help us work towards a low till, high fertility garden.
 We then take the chalk talks and move them to the field. Half of our gardeners start with soil that is so poor it makes better adobe than garden soil. For them we teach how to make a compositing bed.
 The materials needed are readily availible in the forrest and fields. Adding leaves, brush, manures and composited soil to a bed is like a deposit in the bank. It gains interest and gives its returns not in one crop but for years to come.
 We teach if you give to the earth, if you change the soil texture and fertility the earth will give back to you and your family food in a sustainable harvest.
There is power in a seedling. There is power in an idea and a teaching. Change, positive change is on the horizon.

 We see it is small plots of carrots and Swiss chard. We see it in the fruit hanging behind this woman, a new plant called Pepino Dulce, that gives a melon tasting harvest twice a year.
We hear it in the pride of a young gardener when she begs us to come see her work.
We sense it in the potential of a new family who has proven their desire to work and now is ready to change plastic and sticks for the garden wire that will be distributed.

This year 100 new gardens will be fenced.

Each week we try and distribute 1,000 seedlings.

and teach two garden clases. We often have the training sessions in the villages.

 After ever class we distribute seedlings and fruit trees so they can take home not just a teaching but the tools to implement it with.

'Hands on' is not just a by-word but a daily practice.
We are training the old.

and the young are listening.

I have been down here almost 12 years now. I am passing the torch as we train the trainers. Felipe is one of our three trainers.
 They are sharing a teaching that includes hope and self respect.
And the people are listening.

We are all happy with the progress and results..

The people we serve live simply and their needs are real. Here a young mother ties a piece of plastic for a garden fence so she can get started. When she proves her desire with the work of her hands, we will then approve wire for the corral.

Our reward is smiles. graditude and the harvest to come.

I often listen to and think about the open discusión ' How to help the por'. It is a complicated question to solve but when I am in the field and see the need, the effort and the people I think why not do something. Use our best judgment but move from a thought or desire to action. We plant seeds with families like this one. They will mix them with their efforts and own ideas and dreams. The full reality of what will come is yet to be seen but I can feel it. Positive change is birthed in love. It happens in your family as you care for your children and it can happen in the world at large. Let's join hearts and hands and move forward to a better tomorrow.

Mateo sharing how to manage a compost pit
Villagers from nueve puntos receiving  fruit trees
 A widow in Sotzil preparing seedlings to be shared with her garden group.
Harvest time bring better nutrition into the home.
 Here in Ilom as I prepare seedlings to distribute you can see the pipes for our wáter project. We also have built 40 stoves and helped 30 families with clothing  in the village this year.  Today T.R.E. is active in 14 villages. You support in action!
It benefits many like this garden class in the village. There is power in loving actions. Let's us be doers of the good in this world.
Rosa is telling me how big the plants are growing. I am planting a garden with love, in the midst of great need, for the generation a hand and the one yet to come. Change, positive change is coming. Join us in making it a reality. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Often a good project starts with the quiet reflection of a need and the solution. It was just so for the village of Xecano located 4 hours by foot up the trail from Eden Ixil.  The need was clear and simple- there was no potable water. Families were dependent on the collection of rain water. The poverty was extreme and money for barrels, gutters or tanks nonexistent.  Four years ago T.R.E. started visiting the families of Xecano and together we started dreaming about a better way.
     A family collecting rain in a bucket
 A pit well for collecting the rain that falls off the metal roofing beside it. The log ladder let's the famly descend to collect buckets of water.
 But I know there is a beter way.

Dreams to make the world a better place often start simple and easy. Meetings in comfortable homes, listening to motivational speakers, joining with groups of likeminded people with the desire to make a difference. The start of this project flows a similar path and every time I started to make the trip up the mountain I felt like I was taking a nice walk in a park as we crossed streams in the shade of the forest.

But the path to fulfill the simple dream of clean potable water was no walk in the park. Like the path to the village that quickly leaves the valley floor and starts a hard ascent this project and these photos chronical the suffering and effort of a year of work for the families of the village. It also honors Jim and Barb Knepshield who financed the project for a people who they will probably never meet. Together, the vilage, the sponors and T.R.E. have left a lasting positive change that will bless the grandchildren of this small mountain village.

The solution to the need for water rested in a small mountain spring two and a half hours walk up the trail. Sand, gravel, cement and rebar were carried up the mountain from Chel.
 Board for forms used to construct the collection tank were chainsawed from the surrounding forrest.

Rebar needed to reinforce the tank was bent and strapped to the backs of the men. 56 years old Francisco never once told me how hard the work was or how tired he was but many, many times he shared his smile, his thanks and joy for a better future.
A kilometer of piping was packed up the mountain. These trails are not made for long loads and snakeing the pipe around switchbacks required constant care.

 Ths rough trail is the highway the families that  travel it as they seek their place in the world.  For those fortunate enough to have a pack animal "car seats" are made of sacks filled with the things they cannot grow  or make by hand.


                        When the collection tank was finished Pedro was excited to see the pressure. Now the hardest part of the project begins- the ditch.
 Over a kilometer of ditch and piping must be laid. It required months of work as they dug a ditch across the mountain. The semi tropical forest does not give passage easily. The tangle of roots, rocks and steep terrain made progress slow and costly. For seven months the men would work one week on the ditch and then one week in their fields to support their families. All of this labor they donated. It is their part of the sweat equity they have in this project.

- When the ditch was finished two plastic water tanks were hiked up the mountain. The trail not only is steep but narrow, with curves, rocks and trees that make passage of something as big as the tank difficult. These photos were taken in the easier part of the trail.

Arrival! Success is in sight! The water is now flowing over a kilometer to this site above the village.  As the village grows new tanks can be added to the two in place. There is enough water for 30 famlies.

Why?- Why all of this effort? For a drink of clean water. Those of you who know the thirst from hiking in the mountain can appreciate these photos. The sweet flavor of cool clean water.

                                                               Tired and sore feet.
Pedro working under the load of carrying the water tank.
I begin with the statement that this project chronicles some of the suffering and effort of the men and women of Xecono. No matter how powerful the photos might be they only tell a part. As the men of the community stood around the newly place tank the demonstrated community development. It is more than pipes and bags of cement. It is more than dollars and a count of how many peopleare  helped. It is families who have bound together to reach a goal and are stronger because of it. 

Today there is joy and celebration in Xecano. This celebration and thankfulness will not stop tomorrow or the day after. For the first time in the history of the village, the men, women and children of Xecano can open a faucet and smile. 
  During this project we have planted fruit trees, distributed water filters, clothes, eyeglasses, garden seeds and more. The trees we planted when we first started dreaming together are already giving their first harvest of apples, oranges and peaches. 50 new trees were planted this week. Sustainability, positive change are bywords in humanitarian work. I am glad they are a reality in Xecano.

One mountain village united for a better future. Thanks Jim and Barb. If you are ever in the area stop by and the village will butcher a chicken and offer you a meal and a heartfelt thanks that is so deep there is no translation needed. I wish all of our sponsors could realize the impact they help us make. Today is a good day to celebrate for us all.