Monday, January 28, 2013

The spirit of volunteerism

I was a volunteer at the Sharing Gardens in Monroe, Oregon and I am a friend of the lovely originators (Chris and Llyn) of the garden there. When I told them I would be going to the Philippines they asked if I would visit Rey their friend in Davao who had been inspired by them after reading their sharing garden blog. They were communicating with Rey by email and had also sent him seeds for planting in the garden he has established in Bread Homes. They had shared an encouraging email Rey had sent of his gardening projects while I had stayed with them for a weekend visit. I told Chris and Llyn I would be glad to visit Rey and I got his contact information and emailed him when I got to Cagayan de Oro and asked him about visiting. Rey responded quickly about his excitement at my visit and so I was able to travel to see him about two weeks later. 

I arrived at Davao early in the morning after a winding and bouncy ride through the mountains by air con van as the roads are being renovated. Rey had texted me short instructions how to get to Bread Homes in Davao and after a tricycle ride (motorcycle with side carriage), a multi cab ride I got at the market, and a motorcycle ride, all easily accomplished as the universe was working on my behalf to see Rey and the others, I arrived at Bread Homes. It was still early in the morning (about 5:30am), so I lay down and rested on a bamboo bench near a sari sari (small shop) by the main road. As some of the people in the village began to start their daily activities while it was still dark, I was asked where I was going and replied I was visiting a friend in Bread Homes who was doing a community sharing garden. There was a man who said he knew where Rey stayed and walked me to the house about a quarter mile down a rock and dirt road. It was close to 6:30 am. I thanked the man for helping get to Rey’s home and gave the usual greeting to a home when one is visiting, “Ai Ohhh”. Rey met me at the door and I gave him a big hug which Chris and Llyn are known for giving those who come to the gardens in greeting. I told Rey that the hug was from Chris, Llyn, and I, and so the adventure began. 

 I rested a little bit at the house as I had traveled all night and then awoke and met the other wonderful people who stayed at the house. After greetings, coffee, sharing about ourselves, and a good breakfast, Rey took me to the garden to see it. It is surrounded by a bamboo fence with a tarp sign of “Bread Homes Community Sharing Gardens” and colorful meshing made from vegetable bags surrounding some of the squash outside the fence to keep the small goats from eating the plants. We went inside the gate and though it was presently slightly overgrown there were okra and talong (eggplant) plants sticking up in various places. Rey shared with me some of the difficulties they had been having with growing some vegetables and the soil remediation he was presently doing by composting banana peels (from local shops) and cow dung scooped up from a nearby pasture. Insects had also been treating themselves to some of the vegetables before they were fully ripening.

As the soil seems to have a lot of clay in it the composting has been helping to improve the top soil layer. Over the next few days we went to the garden and cleared some of the overgrown vegetation, dug up the soil, took the wheel barrow and got banana peels and cow dung for the garden. 
It gets quite hot and humid in the garden so it is best to work earlier in the morning and work can only be sustained for about three hours. You sweat quite a bit and need to drink a lot of water. Rey, Che, and I have enlightening conversations in the garden as I have had working with Chris and Llyn in the garden in Oregon. Rey shared once about some of the frustrations he had experienced with the surrounding community. It was interesting that as he and I worked in the garden on two other days, people would visit and talked to us as we worked in the garden and the frustrations he had talked about disappeared. 

Rey and Che are very passionate and loving people as are the others in the community house at Bread Homes. Though the garden’s struggles with growing vegetables at times, the garden is a larger symbol of their desire to see community and interconnectedness restored to the people in their area, and to contribute in helping make the world a better place one small area at a time.

The compassion and kindness that Rey, Che, Lander and Cha and others in the community house have and are sharing to the people near the garden and in Bread Homes is beyond just the sharing of the vegetables that have been produced. They are helping to recreate community in the hearts of people and to increase the sharing of Love in many practical ways in Bread Homes. When I am around the community of Bread Homes, I feel continually surrounded by Love.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Slowly...we grow!

I can’t imagine how fast the time was. It’s been a year now since we started the Sharing Garden project. To be honest, during those many months we've only accomplished very few things and we haven’t seen the results we've expected. But anyway it’s not the end, perhaps three more months and we will be able to plant more vegetables again with all those organic compost that we've prepared. 

Doing our own solution to the problem of soil is a wonderful thing especially when you do it with organic method. As for now, banana peel and cow dung are the main materials that we are using. Of course it doesn't guarantee plentiful harvest but I’m sure this will help a lot. I’m sure most of the people who tried it knew that gardening is not easy, especially when you don’t have enough people to help. I remember how motivated we were back then, not worrying about how will the hard works affect our health. We did many things; from removing large portions of weeds to digging out plastics/garbage from the soil. I know it sucks but that's the kind of stupidity some of the people has, not only here in our area but in many places as well. 

Some other works we do related to this project are: collecting banana peels from the market, collecting cow dung from the fields, giving small discussions about health, ecology, alternative community and organic gardening, organizing film screenings and cultural presentation, writing to other groups/networking, doing information campaigns and street leafleting, gardening video distribution and of course, fund raising. 

Mixing banana peel and cow dung for another pile of compost

Photo exhibit on the street about organic gardening and alternative community building 

Musical performance by EMPATHY at KU community center  

Sometimes children come visit to play and help with the small works and we are glad to do gardening with them. Our  hope is that in the future they will realize the importance of this project and will continue to spread the sharing garden idea! 

Before we end this post, we are happy to share more of these good photos that we took during those past few weeks of volunteer actions. Some of you people know that as of this moment, Mindanao is still suffering the impact of the typhoon "pablo" and many groups/individuals are giving most of their time and energy just to help their fellows survive and continue living. We here at the Sharing Garden are doing our best to help them; trying to organize fund raising events and collecting stuff for relief while also continue working for the projects and activities related to our campaigns. As of now, there is endless rain in Davao and many families are currently staying in the evacuation centers because of flood. As concerned volunteers, we are now thinking of possible ways to help them. So please follow our blog or contact us ( for updates and possible collaboration. Thanks! 

That's all for now. Please wait for more photos and updates of our latest gardening activities together with the volunteers from Luzon/Manila. Thank you very much! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A visit to Talicud Island

Last time, we visited our friends in Talicud Island to give them donations of gardening tools for them to start their own sharing garden. With just a little money, we bought the most important tools for them to use and gave them as a gift for being nice to us every time we go to their place. 

So we woke up early and headed to the port in Magsaysay, but we arrived a bit late because of so many things to prepare for our 3 day vacation so we waited for the second craft instead. All three of us were very excited but a bit tired and sleepy. 

We left Davao at 1PM and after 45 minutes of ride, we finally arrived at the island and started to take a hike to our friend's house. They were surprised when we arrived and were so very happy to received the gift that we brought. They thanked us and offered to help cook for our dinner. 

Our friends live simply in a small house with their daughter and grand son. They also have few animals such as pigs, chickens, cats, dogs and a cow. They have fruit trees and very few vegetables. They were also dependent on the ocean for their food but these days, they seldom go out to catch fish because of big fishing companies that used to exploit this area so that is why they want to start a garden.   

So during those times of our visit, we helped them on their everyday chores and we talked to them about many important things related to gardening and community. We also showed them some movies about gardening. Our friend John also helped them start digging the area where they want to do the garden. Hopefully, they will be successful so that they will enjoy the many positive benefits of having their own organic garden.