Tamsynn Moodley, an SOS intern from Canada, shares her 3-month experience working at the CRC.
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Since I left Belize, I have struggled to find words that accurately describe what I felt during my two-month journey to the Caribbean. My travels were blessed, and by that, I mean I was incredibly lucky to meet who I did and stay where I stayed. However, one place stood out as particularly paradisaical, at least in my mind. This was the Columbia River Cooperative, where my friend Lisa White lives and hosts the travelers of the world.
The Columbia River Cooperative already holds many of my fondest memories in its grasp, because of the great friends I made there, but what impressed me most was Lisa's philosophy behind how and why she ran the farm there. Lisa is heavily involved with organic farming and permaculture and this serves as the basis for her farm. Everywhere you look, fruit trees cover the property; you can find anything from oranges to bananas to passion-fruit to hanging potatoes. Also, raised gardening bins are interspersed in the yard, where Lisa grows her vegetables. She also raised chickens, cows, horses and goats. Lisa's orientation towards organic farming and perennial vegetables are what make the Columbia River Cooperative as significant as it is.
In modern America, specialized tasks have long been the norm, largely because you most be specialized to even hold a career in the states. Many people go their whole lives without realizing how little they know, or ever stopping to care about it. For other people, specialized tasks are a nightmare, which creates an alienation from labor. Anybody who has worked a miserable job undoubtedly knows this feeling. My experience at the Columbia River Cooperative was vastly different from any experience I've had in America. During my time on the farm, every experience was much more meaningful and holistic. Every morning when I woke up, it was time to learn something new. Some days I had to pour gasoline down ants' nests and blow them up; on other days, I would collects eggs, ripe fruit and vegetables to take to the kitchen. What I enjoyed about this experience was being able to see where my work went, which was ultimately back to me. Everyday I would end up feasting on the same fruit I had picked earlier. Even shoveling cow pies to use as manure was enjoyable, even more so when I thought about the benefits Lisa and her daughters would receive from my effort. I learned a great deal about life on that little farm tucked back in the jungle of Belize, but nothing more important than knowing why you work and exactly where your effort is helping the world.
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Lindsay Seegmiller, former Director of International Outreach at Students Offering Support (SOS) talks about her experience working with the CRC. SOS is a Canadian student-led charity dedicated to raising money to raise roofs for children in developing nations in Latin and Central America.
"The first proposed project was to be a community center that would integrate all three pillars of the CRC: environmental conservation, education and training, and sustainable tourism. This community currently has strong access to primary and secondary academic schools. However, Lisa, a teacher at the high school, recognized that something was missing in the academic system. The diversity of local knowledge and customs were being lost through this process, and agricultural modernization was taking its toll on the local environment. She, and her colleagues at the CRC, saw an opportunity to integrate education, environmentalism, and local traditions together in a community center to promote a more sustainable future."
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Damali Robinson talks about her 3-week experience volunteering on the CRC farm with 15 Stanford University students.
"I won’t soon forget our day in the classroom, teeming with smiling children, all eager to draw and write about their favorite things or what they wanted to be when they grew up. A pre-teen Mayan girl wrote (and drew) about her ambition to become a pilot. Many other children told us why their families, communities, and pets were their favorite things. There were occasional moments of chaos that day, but there was such contentment in that chaos.
In the end, this trip was far more fulfilling than anything I could have expected. I grew to love another country, contributed to the infrastructure of a local farm and community, learned about Belize’s distinct environmental assets and challenges, and bonded with an amazing group of Stanford students in the process."
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