By Ana Maria Zamudio Ballesteros
(Ana is pictured above with a black hat and blue long sleeve shirt.) Wherever we go, one of the best things in life is the people around us. Personally, living a volunteer experience has changed me; I never imagined how enriching it would be. Since I started the program, I realized the importance and the impact of the people who come our way.
Working in the home gardens has been unmatched. The garden owners are glad to see that someone wants to work with them in their gardens after experiencing the volcano eruption. Thanks to the preparation we received from the school, we have had the opportunity to build and rebuild gardens from scratch.
First thing that my team does is observe the elements we have around us, such as the land, access to water, how the wind can affect the crops, and the materials we can use. Then, we start to design the garden and build it. When possible, we use materials from that garden that are already there so we make our work more efficient. Once the structure is created, we prepare the soil with additional materials, such as layers of cardboard, banana bodies, brown leaves, and mulch. This gives the soil the nutrients needed to support the plants.
Now, I consider all the elements that can help or affect our work. Anything that I want to do with my team is connected with everything around me. It is significant that we share our knowledge and the gardens’ owners share theirs. They are always willing to show us how they have completed the work in past years and how they have taken care of the soil. If I make a mistake or misunderstand something, my team and the garden owners are always there to help me.
One of my favorite things about this experience happened in the second garden that we built. When we arrived, the garden was completely dead, and the sweet peppers that the owner used to have were really sad. Even if we had the best energy and attitude, we were unsure if it was going to be possible to see something grow again. However, after a week of having built and prepared the soil in the garden, we found that the soil was incredible. It was completely alive and beautiful. And now, after two weeks, the sweet peppers are not sad anymore, and the other plants are growing spectacularly. It is hard to express the happiness I feel when I see that with our work, we are making positive changes that impact the lives of the garden owners.
Finally, I have to thank my team because the experience has been unique, we have learned a lot, and now we are more aware of the importance of growing organic. The way that we can share our thoughts and we plan our projects is something that helps support our work with others.