My name is Luis Diaz from Colombia. In my search to create change in my life and the lives of others, I became an international volunteer at One World Center. Through my volunteer program, I had the opportunity to travel to Mozambique and join the global fight against hunger by volunteering at a school food project, Food for Knowledge. Based in the Maniça village, close to the capital of Maputo, this project distributes soy flour to 250 primary schools which feeds almost 92,000 children. While Food for Knowledge is about more than just distributing food, making sure that children have at least one meal per day is key to the fight against hunger.
After evaluating the situation of the various communities, our team decided to focus on three schools and develop school gardens to supplement the school lunch created with the soy flour. A neighbor close to the project office told us that his garden had been invaded by baby papaya trees after someone decided to use his garden for disposal of a pile of seeds. There were now 500 plants that were in need of a new home.
Papayas are an excellent source of Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants. Additionally, papayas contain enzymes that are helpful for digestion and reducing inflammation while also being extremely delicious. These small and fragile plants were a wonderful and unexpected gift. We were able to transplant the baby papaya trees to restore the school garden at one of the schools which lost the original garden to a flood.
Due to distance, the plants could not be taken directly to the other two schools. At one location, we cleaned up the abandoned garden and prepared the soil. In order to enrich the soil for growing papaya trees, we decided to start by planting beans. Once the beans had done their job, we would plant papaya trees from seeds collected at the other schools. At the other location, there was a much larger space where we were able to create a mega garden that would be the example school garden and could help support other schools in the district. In addition to papayas and beans, we also planted potato and cassava plants so that the children of these three schools will have more flavors to experience and nutritional value for their school lunch. While watching these plants grow, we hope they will develop a love of nature and take pride in their school.
My time in Africa passed so quickly. As I was getting ready to leave, I could just see how the leaves of the papaya trees were starting to appear. I have kept in contact with my new friends who continue to provide updates on how the plants are doing. Through one happy gardening accident, the lives of thousands of children have been improved. As they say, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.