2002 Kirsten Ford-All Reports

Report #1 “Outreach to students about Composting”

Report #2 “Tours and Planting with Students”

Report #3 “Vermicomposting”

Report #4 “Escuela Rotaria Story” (“Rotary School Story”)

Report #5 (Supplemental Report)

Report #1 October 5, 2002

Kristen Ford and Chris Haas
Planet Drum Volunteers 

It has been one week since Peter and Judy’s departure to Guayaquil. I figured that today would be a great time to send my first report. 

This week has been full of successes. I spent quite a bit of time at the compost patio in Fanca getting to know the workers there better. Cesar, the older man, has tremendous enthusiasm and knowledge about the project. I marked the pichiche seeds that Judy and I planted last week with pink straws. Between Jeff, Chris and me, we did about 1000 new bags of seedlings this week. We also spent a lot of time removing seeds from there shells so they would be ready to plant. 

Jeff has been bringing students from Immaculada and I brought students from Escuela Rotaria a couple different days to learn and help. I have been working with the teachers at Club Ecologico to let me bring those kids to the patio too. 

I distributed about 75 Fanca Produce instructional booklets to children at Escuela Rotaria during a series of classes where they toured the patio and discussed the project. I am looking at schools, particularly Escuela Rotaria, to incorporate seed planting right into their programming. We are inviting schools in other parts of Bahia to plant seeds as part of their field trip to the patio to see how it runs. 

I have been talking with community members about filling the role of stewards for Fanca Produce. We have been trying ot figure out what specific incentives to offerpeople for being stewards beyond the general benefit to the community. 

I haven’t had much luck with inviting people to come out while I’m there, but we are going to try advertising a  “Community Stewards Training Program” to take place next Thursday at the patio all day. 

Other than Fanca work, I have been fixing up the house. The toilet in the pink bathroom is now working and I have collected ceramic tiles from the beach to do a mosaic over that dirty, outdated sink . I painted the bathroom floor (a big improvement) and painted the “office” walls. I moved the computer, table and shelves to that corner and it looks very nice. The whole space has opened up. 

Now for Chris’s report…

With the help of José Eduardo (who is Señor Abeja´s son) we were able to replace nearly all of the stairs in the ´Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas´. In the big staircase in the back we did all but two stairs and there are still a couple stairs in other places that are rotted and need to be replaced. The problem is all the wood is gone and I have tried to find recycled wood several places with no luck. It seems that wood may need to be bought but I don’t think I am going to do anything until I find out how much the signs are going to cost. 

In any event, most of the stairs are done and my project for this week is to find someone to make the signs. This week I also spent some time at Fanca with Kristen and worked on getting seeds ready with Jeff.

Report #2 October 19, 2002

Kristen Ford
Planet Drum Volunteer

Chris and I have been working on the apartment like crazy. Now the entire main commons room’s walls are painted except for right as you come up the steps. We have been continuing to collect tiles and advice to begin work on the mosaic that I was talking about.

I have been concentrating a lot of energy on generating support from the schools. Chris and I led a tour of the park at Maria Auxiliadora with Vladir’s kids from Genesis School. I then proposed to him that he could bring this group out to Fanca to see the compost project and then to plant some seeds of the native trees that they saw in the park. He is interested and we will do that soon. This led me to think about doing this with all of the schools. Planet Drum volunteers could lead tours of the park to broaden awareness of the park then give a tour of the patio to describe the recycling and composting process and then plant some seeds for the revegetation project. It is also something that could bring more public awareness to our projects. There is a volunteer here for 6 months working on an eco-schools theme for the schools. She is looking for opportunities likethis to share with the teachers. I went around with her last week to each primary school in Bahia. She talked about her programming and I talked about ours with each school director. I also have been working to cultivate support from the Escuela Rotaria in Fanca. The director is very interested in playing a continued role in the development of Fanca. 

In the last two weeks I planted another several hundred bags of seeds. Because I won’t be in Bahia for too much longer, I am putting together a program that any Planet Drum volunteer could follow for continuing this work. It describes how to run each tour and how to get the kids to plant the maximum amount of seeds while they are there. It will also give us a space to log what schools we have worked with, what they already know and to describe which teachers and schools are more interested than others. 

Rita arrived at the end of the week and then Sara and Matt right after that. I took them to Fanca right away to show them how to do the seed planting. We planted several hundred bags together. I would like to get more clear on exactly what each different type of seed needs because we have not had the greatest success with some of them, particularly the pichiche that Judy and I planted. I have been looking for a book about tropical dry forests to try to learn more about some of these species. 

Many kids in Fanca are learning about the compost process, but I am still brainstorming on what is going to get the adults involved. 

Report #3 October 31, 2002

Kristin Ford
Planet Drum Volunteer

I am here in Genesis enjoying the costumes that children are wearing tonight. I just saw Snow White walk by.

So much to say, where to begin? Well, in the last week I have gotten very involved in the up and coming vermicomposting project. Jeff, Chris and I have been in ongoing negotiations during the past month for the municipality to produce the worms. Jeff went to Portoviejo where he met someone who will have a starter population ready for us by November 15. 

I will be visiting the successful vermicomposting system they have in place in Loja in 2 weeks. I have already been in good touch with the supervisor of that project. After my visit to Loja, I am going to compile everything into a information and instructional packet for Jeff and future volunteers to use as they set up and maintain the wormbeds. I have been doing a fair amount of research on vermicomposting on this scale, so I already have a lot of this info packet together. 

I have to say that I am very very excited about the work that I have done in Fanca during my time here. I have brought numerous people from the Fanca community out to the patio to start to learn the compost process. Many have also helped with planting seeds at the patio. (We are on track with our seed planting. In fact, we have created a new system where we are going to sow seeds directly into what are now the worm beds. We will then transplant those seedlings into bags. So the planting should go even faster.) I have distributed nearly all of the Fanca Produce booklets throughout the community and talked with people about the process of separating wastes in Fanca. 

I am going to put together info packets to leave with people and groups like the Escuela Rotaria before I leave. It will include reminding them who Planet Drum is and that I was working with Planet Drum and where to find Jeff and future volunteers, a description of the Fanca Produce project including the jobs that need to be done there and info to remind them about setting up a community association that might run Fanca Produce in the future. This will be some physical evidence for them so that the ideas we shared regarding the project will not be lost. I will also put this in the Planet Drum binder to share with future volunteers. 

And that brings me to the binder. Rita has really taken charge of this project and Sara and I are helping her. We have put together a binder with sections about PD history, projects, volunteer experiences, a map and listing of useful resources in Bahia, and house rules. This will all be together by the time I leave, with my entries about my experiences here and ideas for future work. 

I have also been helping out wherever I can on other projects. I went with the guys to the university this week to practice my carpentry skills- I helped to build a bed that we will use to grow seeds there. I can’t believe the time has gone so fast, but I couldn’t have asked for a better place and people to volunteer with. 

Report #4 October 31, 2002 “Escuela Rotaria Story” (“Rotary School Story”)

Kristen Ford
Planet Drum Volunteer

[Soon after arriving in Bahia, Kristen returned from Fanca glowing with amazement and delight. After she told me what happened, I suggested she write up her experience for the website. Here it is….Judy Goldhaft]. 

This story begins with an invitation by the Director of the Escuela Rotaria (Rotary School) in Fanca to work with the natural sciences teacher in her class. The specific goal- to create abundant garden beds in front of the school. The assignment is reasonable enough. In the U.S. I have a lot of experience working with classes to set up garden spaces in schools. I have never gardened in the tropics, but at least I have a working knowledge of steps to take and questions to ask. 

As I walk to the small school on a dusty side road in Fanca, my stomach starts to turn in knots. The school noises seem different here from the school noises I am used to in the U.S. When I walk through a school in the U.S., the kids are generally in their desks and the place is usually fairly quiet. You only hear that din of noisy students when you pass the cafeteria at lunchtime or the playground at recess. When you walk by the Escuela Rotaria, you hear this noisy din all the time. Kids in their classroom are in their seats at their own discretion. Half the time they are initiating their own activities in one corner of the room. 

I try to remain open minded about cultural differences that I may encounter here, but inside I can’t help but marvel at the chaos! With head held high and a deep breath, I march into the classroom to help out wherever I can. With my less than advanced Spanish speaking skills I venture to find out exactly what they want me to do. Luckily, the kids are on the ball. They run out of their classroom in a swarm as soon as they see me and set to collecting pieces of caña (bamboo) from a storage space. A boy offers to run home as he notes the need for a machete. “Ask the teacher,” I say to him as he darts off down the street without another word. 

The rest of the kids begin assigning themselves to a variety of tasks. Some begin to clear away rocks, while others brush away the potato chip bags, popsicles sticks and plastic bottles that had acculmulated on our proposed garden site. The boy runs back from his house, rusty machete perched over his shoulder and sets about shaping the pieces of caña. I think to myself that this project is going to be a disaster. And somebody’s going to get hurt! 

The chaos continues as a girl drags an enormous post hole digger from a back room. She begins digging large holes in no apparent pattern. Others begin hammering caña into the ground. I am at a loss to find a strategy behind their actions. To me, the kids have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. I want to offer my sense of order, but I can’t seem to find the words in Spanish. And their teacher isn’t questioning a thing! 

The chaos multiplies as large tree branches are clumsily hauled out of the school by a handful of kids. How poorly organized I think to myself. I struggle to bring a method to the madness. I search for any kid who seems to be doing things the way that I would be used to. I don’t find any. I try offering a little of my own organization to the folks “in charge” of the pieces of caña. They politely listen and keep on with their work. The kids certainly are focused. 

I finally resign myself to sit down with the teacher and watch the kids with her. Well, I guess they just let things be chaotic here, no sense in trying to control them. Sitting on a rock in the heat of the late morning sun, I have no idea that I am about to witness an act of magic. In a moment the fence materials take on a form through the actions of the children with a life all its own. Before my eyes, a perfectly constructed fence takes shape in an instant. 

What had seemed to be mindless games was actually a sophisticated pattern language, shared by all of the kids in the class. To me it had seemed that the kids knew nothing about cooperatively organizing a project. In fact, they knew how to cooperate in such a sophisticated manner that it was virtually transparent. Who knew that a bunch of unruly ten year old kids could construct a beautiful and functional fence? I have been humbled. 

Intellectually I had been careful to avoid the arrogance and presumption of so many Americans who work in “developing” countries, though I couldn’t help but feel culturally superior as the class progressed. I was so sure that I was coming from the side of organization and order and that the kids had no idea what they were doing. I couldn’t have been more confused. 

The language to construct a fence is culturally ingrained in these children. Their experiential levels of knowledge are so fine-tuned. They can communicate with each other to organize its construction on such an advanced level that I couldn’t begin to understand. No one, not even the people who live in Bahia live the people who live in this community much credit. How do I let these kids know just how creative they are? How do I let them know that they know how to create something that is filled with such life? I am at a loss to find an answer to these questions. Instead I will bask in the awe that I have for these children and share my story of true humility and awakened respect. 

Report #5 November 5, 2002 (Supplemental report)

Kristen Ford
Planet Drum Volunteer

Chris and Matt have been working on the Universidad Catolica revegetation project all the time and will surely pass on their work to Simon. Matt has secured funds to create a greenhouse and we have already started working on design plans for the structure. 

Simon just arrived from Guayaquil a few minutes ago. His flight was arrived in Guayaquil instead of Quito because of the volcanic eruption that shut down the Quito airport. So Simon’s here and Jeff’s not because Jeff is still waiting for him in Quito. I only got to talk to Simon for a minute because I was on my way out the door.

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