IMG_1667It is Sunday, and I will be leaving St. Lucia in a couple of days. I will leave the country but my heart will remain with the many homey St. Lucians who have welcomed me as if I was part of their family. For all this I am grateful, and will cherish them as dear friends. I have made many new friends who will always be close to my heart.

For the past couple of months I have been busy working as hard as possible with little time to blog. Neil asked me “are you happy Zimm?” after we had the media this past Wednesday. I was happy, we got the media, an important component of the project to spread the word. Most importantly, students, farmers, facilitators, Fair trade, IWCA, Niel and I were interviewed. We also went to one of the farmers’ homes to get footage of where we planted trees. The reporter told us that the video will be played on the national network several times once they edit it. This will be possible in a couple of weeks.

Through this publicity, one of the objectives of the project have been met. The river is being stabilized, farmers are engaging and embracing the project, the youth are happy to have participated. A lot was achieved, but I can still see that more continuous work has to be done. The survival of the trees is important, and success can only be achieved in the long run. It is a race that has to be continued to preserve soil, protect water resources, and ensure the economic and social health of people in the Valley.

We purchased 500 more trees so that farmers can continue planting trees after we leave. Fair trade will need to meet its requirements of involvement with the community and preserving the environment. But the farmers that are non-fair trade also need to be involved. How will this be achieved is and important question. We are confident that the project and the initiative taken by the valley residents will serve as an example and will be spread through the country.

For our part, we are leaving, but the students are willing to have a continuous involvement in the project. We discussed the formation of an environmental youth group, and most of them seemed excited. Their first activity will be a beach clean up, which is a starting point to get the group running. Some of the facilitators have shown to have the leadership skills and will hopefully be involved with the students to help them get organized. Integrating Watershed and Coastal Area Management (IWCAM) has asked for the membership of one of the facilitators in their committee to have a youth representative.

St. Lucia Projects for Peace may help to wake up the minds of the many in the valley about their environment, and the project is only gaining momentum now. The environment has to become a priority for the valley. There is a lot to do, and we need to realize this before it is too late.

~Zimm

From Saturday July 10th

006For the past 2 weeks we have been busy with the integration of the 7 facilitators into our the project. It is the 5th week since we arrived in St. Lucia, and our progress and achievements have been amazing.  We managed to get EC $19,000 additional financial support from the St. Lucia Social Development fund and 700 trees have been disbursed to farmers. The additional funds have allowed to increase the scope of our project by including 7 facilitators and the increasing the number of students from 10 to 35. I can now say that the objectives to educate the youth and wider community is having broad impact. The fruit of education might not be seen and reaped immediately, but our project is paving the way for future Lucian environmental leaders. An educated person becomes an asset to a community, fostering change by educating others: it is the ripple effect of education that can change behavior in a society.

Integrating the facilitators

For the past week, Neil and I have engaged in integrating the 7 facilitators to the project so that there will be continuity after we leave. The task has been both challenging and rewarding. Like any group of people that need to work together, our facilitators need to feel comfortable with each other first. Last week Saturday we had a lunch and celebrated one of the facilitator’s birthday. Neil and I gave the group some time to get to know each other while we wandered away occasionally. New friendships are being formed, personalities understood and tolerance achieved by all. The first week with the facilitators is the basis for strong leadership and engagement in the project. As Neil and I said to them “you all will be running the show while the two of us take a back seat.”

Skills Needed by the facilitators

The first session we had with the facilitators we introduced three broad topics under which we will be carrying out the student program.  These include: food security, environmental issues, and biodiversity. The facilitators will have a broad knowledge of these topics, how they are interrelated and how they relate to the objectives of the project. First we allowed the facilitators to define these words and assisted them through the process. The discussions continued with examples that relate to the daily lives of people in the valley. It helped us follow a stream of thought process to give them a rich and in-depth definition and understanding of the topics, thus creating a broad picture. In another session we looked at a sustainability analysis through the five major topics: Political, Economic/environmental, social/security, and technological. Other skills that the facilitators will gain through the training are leadership, and organizational planning.

Personally, working with new faces is a great learning experience. It is not a one way learning process, but one in which each individual learns from each other. In the same way, students can learn from the facilitators, who will be role models. We will also be working with farmers from whom all of us will learn. Even though we are trying to plant trees to achieve a bigger goal, we need to learn how we can do it best, and for me the best way is to work with farmers, youths, and the local institutions to promote the project. It is a learning process for all for a better environment and sense of community.

~ Zimm

After a month in St. Lucia, we are pleased to announce the distribution and the planting of the first batch of tree crops. It was an exciting moment to see the  farmers come to a brief meeting this morning before distributing the trees. Neil, Zimm, and the seven facilitators were present at the meeting to experience an important of the project.

After the trees were distributed we all walked to one of the farmer’s to assist her with the tree planting. We got our hands dirty by planting more that 10 trees. The rest of the trees will be planted by the farmers during the course of the week.

DON’T PANIC..there are more trees to come!!
The 7 facilitators and 35 students will help us plant many more trees. Tree planting is just one of  the many activities that we will have during the course of this month. We intend to do beach cleanups and to develop community awareness. The Student Program is to educate while giving hands on experience on environmental issues, food security and biodiversity. Each student will become a leader by propagating peace one tree at a time.

Neil and Zimm planting their first tree

Neil and Zimm planting their first tree

A good friend of mine (Dr. Sexius) told me last night “until you plant the first tree, then the project is not successful”. But the success of the project is much more than planting trees — the process of propagating peace requires partnership among many stakeholders. Ownership of the project by the farmers and the rest of the community is vital to the success of the project. Today 400 trees were distributed and planted by the farmers of the Grade Ravine river. We planted the first tree: after all our hard work, this was an exciting moment for the entire project. Enjoy the videos and the photos.

Neil

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vO2z21FEfQk

We’re very excited to introduce our seven hand-picked facilitators:

Eva

Eva

Eva Joseph

Eva Joseph is a resident of Derniere Rerviere, Mabouya Valley. Presently, she is attending the Sir Aurthur Lewis Community College in View-fort. She is 21 years of age, a young and vibrant individual, with intentions of becoming a successful woman. This attitude is indispensable for the achievement of any goals she sets in her life, even when it may seem impossible.

Shervon

Shervonne

Shervonne Cassius

Shervonne Cassius is a resident of Aux-Lyons, Dennery, and has recently completed her Associates Degree from Sir Aurthur Lewis Community College. Shevonne is actively involved in sports in her community: she is a member of the Aux-Lyons United Sports Club and the Mabouya Youth and Sports Council. Her interests include reading and taking part in sports, especially netball. It will take passionate leaders like her to make a difference.

Leyanna

Leyanna

Leyanna Felicien

Leyanna Felicien is originally  from Gardette, but now resides in Richfond, Dennery. What she enjoys most is socializing and playing sports. She completed her secondary education at the Clendon Mason Memorial Secondary School and later finished a course of studies at Sir Aurthur Community College. Here interest in the environment and strong values led us to select her to take part in the Project for Peace Student Summer Program.

Malonia
Malonia

Malonia St. Juste

Malonia St. Juste resides in the community of Derniere Riviere, Mabouya Valley. Malonia enjoys socializing and meeting new people.  She strongly believes that anyone can achieve anything it they put their mind to do it. Her beliefs and strong sense of conviction are displayed in her life through her actions.

Meeting with Best and Lunch with Faciltators 079

Kimran John

Kimran John

Kimran John is from Grande Ravine. He attended the Clendon Mason Memorial Secondary school. Kimran serves as the Public Relation Officer (PRO) of the Grande Ravine Youth Group and PRO of the Survivals Sports Club. His interest are in hospitality, travel, and tourism. He is an aspiring businessman ans is also interested law. He is a disciplined individual who can easily adapt to change. Kimran is a team player and role model to the youth in his community.


Useline

Useline

Useline Eudovic

Useline Eudovic is a resident of Grande Ravine. She enjoys meeting and working with new people. Over the past five years Useline have gained experience and inter-personal skills through her works as a receptionist with Hess Oil. As a member of the Mabouya Valley Environmental Club she participated in the Youth Poverty Alleviation Through Heritage and Tourism (Youth Path) Program during which she received training in Computer Graphics Design. She has experience in river stabilization project and understands the issues facing the environment.

Vernon

Vernon

Vernon Emmanuel

Vernon Emmanuel is from the community of Belmont. He attended the Clendon Mason Memorial Secondary School form 1994 to 1999. From 1998 to 2000 Vernon served as the president of the Mabouya Valley Environmental Club where he oversaw the implementation of several projects including the first Fond D’Or beach clean up, and the first Grand Ravine riverbank stabilization project. Vernon has actively participated in many development programs in his community and the Mabouya Valley such as cricket and football. Vernon’s passion and experience in community development will be an important asset for the project.

This is our Team!

The Team

The Team

Meeting with Best and Lunch with Faciltators 045On a beautiful Monday afternoon Zimm and I jumped in the back of Metro’s pick-up truck to drive through the valley in search of our seven facilitators. We started in Derniere Riviere, drove through Belmont, took a short-cut to Grand Ravine and then made our way onwards through La Caye to Limere. We went to La Resource, Gaddette, and then back to Rich Fond before returning home to Derniere Riviere.  It was a long day!

The road trip was much more than just driving through these communities. So lets recap to before we jumped in the back of the truck… it was a scorching hot day (temps in 80s!) so we went back up the hill to change into some looser clothing since I want to soak up as much sun as possible before returning to Maine. First stop was Belmont: a beautiful community (the name says it all) overlooking the Fond D’Or beach. “Wow!  Everyone has a sea view.” observed Zimm. On our way to Grand Ravine we briefly talked to a farmer harvesting bananas. The road was so rocky that we were able to chat up with a passer-by for a few minutes. In Grand Ravine I stopped by some old schoolmates. A friend joked about my size, clamming that I have not put on any weight since high school. Lucians have a nick name for everyone: at high school they used to call me Ticore (small guy or bonny guy to some people). Its always nice to share a laugh with old friends!  So far we have 2 facilitators in Derniere Riviere, one in Belmont, and two in Grand Ravine.  We left Grand Ravine and headed to Limiere in such of my son, Junior (he is not actually my son).

I met Junior while working on the St. Lucia Iguana project some six years ago. He is now 15 and one of the students that propagating peace will be working with for the rest of the summer. Afterwards we went to Gadette and Rich Fond in search for one more facilitator.

Going through the valley was like a breath of fresh air. The very diverse communities provide such a great classroom for both Zimm and I to learn: for me, catching up with old friends and using past experience as my work-book. A lot of my learning is derived from explaining to Zimm as we cruise around the valley. It feels good to be home. I love the valley. It seems that I am almost at a stage of self actualization, for a brief moment.

But then I quickly get back to the reality that there is a lot more work to be done. So as we arrive home I tell Zimm, “oye Zimm Action Points man.” So about 6:00 pm we took a walk down the road to Derniere Riviere (to the football field) with out little note books to continue planning. It’s a continuous process and we love our job.

~Neil

Does Neil ever stop eating Mangoes?

Does Neil ever stop eating Mangoes?

As I brave the South African winter (I really should not complain — its very mild!) I continue to stay in touch with Zimm and Neil and remain an active member of team Propagating Peace.  Despite the 6 hour time difference, we have had two productive conference calls and swap emails daily.  My role has changed and I credit my teammates for picking up the slack I held and doing and putting in a lot of work and long days (and nights).   I am now adding input to the workshops, keeping the blog up-to-date, monitoring record keeping, and drafting reports.  It is very exciting to hear about the SSDF funding.  I worked on a proposal letter shortly before I left and the the funding not only materialized, but was far greater than we expected.  This will only help us ensure the project realizes its maximum potential impact.  The employment of seven facilitators will contribute to the sustainability of the project once we’re gone (through skill transfer and the establishmwnt of a “core” group)  It also has the important economic value of job creation in the valley.  Our project in not simply an environmental initiative: it is an endeavor in holistic implementation of applied human ecology.  The project’s impact will be felt long after we’re gone: creating jobs, ensuring food secrurity, improving education — all leading to happier, healthier communities in the valley.  It is also great to see, once again, the St Lucian government’s active involvement in a community-oriented environmental project.

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