Rosa planting five years ago.
“The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth”- Maria Montessori
There is definitely something magical about watching a seed turn into a plant and then flower into a fruit. Here at The Mariposa Center for Girls we are convinced that one of the greatest (and most sustainable) gifts that we can give our girls is to provide as many opportunities as we can to connect with the Earth. One of the most convenient and impactful ways to spark their interest is by having a permaculture garden.
In 2014, when we moved into The Mariposa Center for Girls, we also established our Mama Tingó (Dominican activist and defender of agricultural workers rights) permaculture garden. Led by the thoughtful guidance and support of Karen Silverman, help of long term volunteer, Ada Smith, and permaculture designer, Charlie Durrant, we began the process of turning a field of sand into an abundant food forest. With the collaborative efforts of Mariposa girls, team members, international volunteers and community members alike we have maintained our garden and created a space which throughout the years has served as an experiential learning ground and a powerful tool to inspire environmental stewardship within our community.
Throughout the years, the garden has transformed from a simple permaculture conuco (or traditional farming system in the DR) to a composting hub for the Center. In 2017, a group of volunteers from Lawrence Academy came to establish a composting system on site that would take most of our waste at the Center and transform it in to a rich soil to feed our plants. Part of this process included that all dried leaves collected at the Center are transformed into mulch, a three-part composting system was established and a bathtub worm bin was installed so that the girls could visualize the process easier and watch the earthworm’s breakdown organic materials quickly. During every annual Earth Day celebration, our girls proudly lead garden tours and taught their family members the importance of organic agriculture and composting throughout the day.
Unfortunately, a few months after the Earth Day event in 2017, we were struck by the high winds of Hurricane Irma and Maria. Both hurricanes did significant damage to the canopy layer of our food forest- leaving us with a garden exposed to the elements and a number of trees down. Most of our Moringa trees fell down and we lost many of the banana trees (that we serve as snacks for our 120+ girls). Though the garden suffered significantly from the storms, the clean-up process proved to be successful in re-growing the trees and plants that we lost and ultimately using the tragedy to teach about climate change.
In March of 2018 more than 60 volunteers worked in the garden doing a number of activities including; reorganizing the compost system, clearing trails throughout the garden and building a chicken coop. The completion of the “chicken palace” will not only provide food for our girls, but will also be an extension to our experiential learning space and to understand more about science and the art of animal husbandry while providing our permaculture garden with more compost needed to grow more food.
Looking back at the history of the garden and its changes it has proven to be a metaphor of the Mariposa girls and their process here with us. When we plant the seed, give love and nutrients, we reap the benefits of what we sow. When we take the time to nurture, educate and empower girls their lives become the testament of the fruits of our labor.
Dayana proudly stands at our Mama Tingo garden.
Very proud of our new chicken coop!
Isha planting seeds.
Staff and volunteers doing some garden clean-up.