Maria Veronica and Juanita examining a 'find' from nature in the rural school of Los Filos.
I’m writing of these events because part of what we’ve been involved in lately is the formation, for this year, of our ecology brigades among the school children, youth and adults. These folks are our forerunners of a more healthy, more kindly treated natural environment. We have been visiting our very humble rural schools…some of them with all children in grades 1-6 in the same room and with only a few desks and very little more. They are very aware of Madre Tierra (Mother Earth) who surrounds them at all times. They know the trees, their leaves, the flowers, the birds, the native animals and how to use the leaves and flowers for remedies and medicine. They will be involved in helping to raise consciousness about the dangers that face our environment and the health issues connected thereto. They will be helping to clean up their homes and communities and encouraging their families to do so while seeing that garbage is cared for properly. These children will also be responsible for cultivating and maintaining their school gardens that will supply them with tomatoes, sweet peppers, lettuce and other veggies that they wouldn’t normally have included in their diet. It is indeed a formidable task with six months of drought each year. However, youth have a way of circumventing the impossible and making some progress. They’re proud of their T-shirts and caps that set them apart... shirts that say “I care for the environment” on the front, and on the back, “…and you?” They will help with reforestation because one of Nicaragua’s MAJOR problems is the cutting of trees on the hillsides. This is done to provide wood for cooking and for the making of charcoal. Both of these items can then be sold and thus provide a little income for families. It’s a Catch-22! They need the cash to supplement their beans, rice and corn diet, but in so doing they are facilitating erosion, driving the water table lower making it even more difficult to locate underground water, and disturbing the balance of gas exchange. An approach to this dilemma is to replant three trees for every tree felled.
The beginning of a tree nursery....filling 5,000 plastic bags with prepared soil!
To get started in this latest aspect, we had a day long workshop with representatives from each of the six areas in which we are working. There was time for sharing and learning and time for working. It was quite literally a WORKshop! We filled 5,000 small black plastic bags with properly mixed soil. Now I’m here to tell you that that constitutes WORK!! The spirit was great and in spite of the heat and DIRT, we managed quite well. This is the first step in developing a vivero (nursery). Eventually, the seed of a tree will be planted in each one, carefully watered and tended and eventually transplanted in the various areas where the children and youth live in an effort to replace trees that have been cut down. We’ll have another ‘go’ at it again in three weeks. By then my body will have recuperated!! It’s called “stoop labor”!! The goal is 15,000 saplings!! And so…seed by seed we move into a healthier future!
With the coming of the rainy season, we’ll be able to place the famous ‘pregnant cows’ in their new homes. Because the folks rely on the uncultivated ‘greenery’ for food for the cattle, we can only move this project along during the rainy season. Everything in its time! However, there are three families anxiously waiting for cows and within a couple of months this should be a reality for them…soon a calf and then milk and cheese to eat and sell. The students at Shrine High School in Royal Oak, Michigan, are sponsoring a part of this project by their donations during Lent. We’re grateful to them and also to all who help us along as we accompany the people on their journey to a more dignified and healthier life. The chickens will also be placed soon with two families in Los Planes de Cuajachillo 2.
I’m looking forward to our Assembly in Chicago during Easter Week and will be spending Holy Week in Michigan. Holy Week here is vacation for all….including for those responsible for printing newspapers!! There’s no connection with religious motives, it’s just the time for everyone to be “off”. Since this is the case, it’s an opportunity to come home a week ahead of our Assembly. I’ll see some of you then and I look forward to that.
Thanks for whatever you are doing to be aware of all our sisters and brothers throughout the world .. especially those who do not have the opportunities as do some of us, for a more dignified and healthier life.
Your sister, Jeanne