Strong Roots Movement

A Peacemaking Project by Kristina R.

What is the injustice we are solving?

Inequality between school’s funding level within a public district, creating a spending inequality issue to those in inner city schools by them receiving less. Additionally, the garden beds and tending to them are a good form of therapy for the students who live in harmful environmental exposures, such as air pollution, which often occurs in communities facing SES stressors including deteriorating housing, poor access to health care, high unemployment, crime, and poverty, which may exacerbate negative health effects. Once the students are each given a seedling to plant, and are given the responsibility to take care of it and watch it develop into life, it really benefits the students. socio-economic cleavages in our community put the under-served students at a disadvantage.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of The lack of knowledge that students have on being eco-friendly/sustainable and eating healthy by going green and organic.
we will address The lack of resources available to students in under-served inner-city elementary schools, thus leading to a lack of knowledge on the importance of eating a balanced diet with important nutrients, as well as taking care of our planet. As well as addressing the quality between school’s funding level within a public district, creating a spending inequality issue to those in inner city schools by them receiving less.
by Donating organic edible garden beds to teach the upcoming generation important concepts on sustainability, eating fresh, and going green.

Our Project Plan:

Goals

  • Install organic edible garden beds in under-served elementary schools to teach the upcoming generation how to be green, organic, and sustainable.

We will increase my / our compassion by...

We will increase our compassion by reaching out to more elementary schools and at risk youth centers to make an impact as many students as we can, because we believe they deserve the same opportunities as every other student despite their socio-economic status. We will increase our passion by attempting to the engage the community as much as possible, wether it be from reaching out to more students who could potentially be interested as volunteers, or reaching out to more than just elementary schools but hopefully middle and high schools as well. We will continue to expand and make a difference to the best of our abilities.

How will you show courage?

We will show courage by not allowing the socio-economic cleavages in our community put the under-served students at a disadvantage. We will rise past the deep rooted social-scturture to connect and engage our community to close that gap. We will show courage by not giving up on our mission even if a school or youth center is unable to take on the garden beds and declines our offer, which is the biggest challenge we face. But its okay, we expect this because our goal is to reach out to struggling facilities that need the help.

How will you collaborate with others?

We will collaborate by reaching out to under-served elementary schools and at-risk youth centers in the surrounding community to bring the community together, to unify us through the power of knowledge and educating the upcoming generation. We will also reach out to UF students on campus for those who are interested in volunteering on the garden beds and having them engage with the students at these schools/ at-risk youth centers to develop a bond with the students.

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

Our project tackles a wide variety of issues found in our community, so there is a variety of ways we can measure our impact. First, once the produce we grow is ready to be harvested and given to either the students to take home for their parents to cook with or given to the cafeteria to use in the school lunch for the day , that is an obvious indication that the garden beds and the effort to provide organic, nutritious produce to kids living in "food deserts" was successful. Furthermore, after we work with teachers and faculty at the schools/centers to develop environmental educational lesson plans to teach to the students, we can tell by the students reactions to learning new material how excited they are to have this opportunity. Additionally, the garden beds and tending to them are a good form of therapy for the students who live in harmful environmental exposures, such as air pollution, which often occurs in communities facing SES stressors including deteriorating housing, poor access to health care, high unemployment, crime, and poverty, which may exacerbate negative health effects. Once the students are each given a seedling to plant, and are given the responsibility to take care of it and watch it develop into life, it really benefits the students. Also, once we install the garden beds, we plant milkweed (which is the main food source for monarch butterflies) which instantly attracts monarch butterflies, which almost instantly brightens the entire mood of the campus as well as beautifies it by providing lush pre-sprouted seedlings. Another indicator we use to measure the impact our project has made is when we see the relationship and bonds develop between the volunteers and the students that we bring ht garden beds to. Over time, the students open up to the volunteers and work side by side on the garden bed, not only gaining a hands-on science experiment but also developing a sense of having a role model and someone to look up to.

Key Steps

  • -Identify under-served areas of our community. -Conduct research regarding at-risk youth centers and elementary schools in these under-served areas of our community. -Reach out to the centers and elementary schools to get in contact with their faculty or principals to discuss the possibilities of bringing the garden beds to their facility/ campus. - Reach out to students on campus at UF that would be interested in making a difference in our community through volunteering at the garden beds several times a week. -Once a center/ schools accepts the project proposal, meet in person to discuss logistics to implement the garden beds. - Develop a plan, including a set date to begin working on the beds. -Inform the volunteers of when the installation of the garden beds will occur, as well as go through several training sessions with the volunteers so they can answers any questions the students may have regarding gardening,sustainability,or being organic and they can fully be aware of the process and the impact the garden beds have. - Meet on the campus to install, educate, and work with the students as we build and plant seedlings in the garden beds. - Have volunteers return to the campus 2-3 times a week to work with the students and tend to the garden.

Reflection:

How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

This project literally brought us to the root of the problem, working at a center that brings kids from inner-city underserved neighborhoods in the community. These kids struggle day to day with harmful environmental exposures, such as air pollution, often occur in communities facing SES stressors including deteriorating housing, poor access to health care, high unemployment, crime, and poverty, which may exacerbate negative health effects. Being able to see first hand how these kids react to these living situations, wether its with short tempers or being rude to the staff, it comes out of a place of traumatic molding that made them be so harsh to the world around them. This project also allowed us to understand that these kids did not ask to live this life, and it is nothing but such an unfortunate case that these kids have to suffer living in the conditions they were born in. We also understood how hard it is for the centers to provide fresh food for the residents, as they are an non-profit that regularly has to fund things out of pocket from the staff. They are limited on staff, resources, and time, so it makes it very understandable as to why providing fresh produce can be challenging. It is easier for them to buy pre-prepared, pre-packaged food for the students at the center because not only is it faster than cooking with real food, it is also significantly cheaper for the center.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

We believe we did change our community to some extent as a result of my project, as we brought together UF students and had them working side by side with the student residents at the at-risk youth center. We bridged the gap between the UF community and the rest of Alachua community.

How many people were impacted by your project?

40

Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

In terms of physical labor, and in terms of the volunteers that were physically there to help us install the garden beds, I would say it was roughly around 30 students and UF volunteers working together to install the beds. So from the installation of the garden beds, I would say roughly 30 people were impacted. Overall, I would say those who will benefit from the garden beds will range from 20-30 as well, because once the produce is ready to be harvested, the staff at the center will use the produce to cook meals for the student residents at the center. Thus creating a positive impact to the student residents who are able to now incorporate fresh, organic, nutritious produce in their diets.

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

We learned a lot from the people affected by the injustice, working side by side with the students at the at-risk youth center was very eye-opening. I think a lot of my team members may have underestimated how serious and how severe the living situation is for the students at the risk center. These are kids aged between 9-16, and they are literally pulled out of their houses and brought to this center to get them out of whatever home issues they were dealing with and giving them the opportunity to better their future and break out of the poverty cycle they’ve been trapped in. We learned that eery day is a struggle for them, not only that but we realized how strong and brave these students are, because they have the weight of the world against them yet they do not give up and they believe in themselves. To me, that is courage. We learned they really do suffer from traumatic upbringings that cause them to feel angry or trapped, so seeing them soften while they garden was really rewarding. We also learned these students do not have access to fresh food, their diets consists of packaged processed food.

What did your team learn?

I believe my team and I really discovered the true meaning behind not giving up, and working around problems until you find the best solutions. We learned how strong the community is if we come together for the greater good and become unified in the hopes of creating a better future for the upcoming generations. We learned how to problem solve, and to work around obstacles that we face along the way. We learned how beneficial these garden beds are to the students who receive them, almost instantly we saw them soften up once they began working on the beds.

What challenges did your team overcome?

There were several challenges we had to overcome, one of them was reaching out to students on campus who would dedicate the time to volunteer once a week on the beds that were at centers located off campus. We also had to overcome the challenges associated when working with nonprofit domestic abuse centers that are limited in resources, faculty who can assist us in establishing the garden beds, and to time that we can make available to come outside and garden while learning environmental educational lessons.

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

One of the main goals in this project is to involve as many people from the community as possible, so we try to engage as many people on campus and in the community as possible. We collaborated with #UNLITTER, another club on campus to have them paint signs for the garden beds, as they made a meeting out of this event and called it an “Unlitter your mind” painting session, as they believe in painting as a therapeutic form of being mindful. We collaborated with schools at my university to send out the volunteer flyer we created with the entire listerv of students in that school. We involved the UF School of Dentistry’s graduate program as we had 16 volunteers come out and volunteer on the installation of the garden beds. We involved two at risk youth centers in the Gainesville community to have their residents come and work on the installation of the garden beds with us. We try to involve as many different groups of people as possible, because we want to bridge the gap between the UF student body and the rest of the surrounding community residents. We want to provide a sense of motivation of hope to the kids we volunteer side by side with.

What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?

My advice would be to never give up, regardless of how many obstacles may come up, and from first hand experience I will tell you it's inevitable that you will run into obstacles,so to not give up because everything will work out and it will be worth it. My advice is to be open-minded when building and trying to construct your project, as this garden bed project of mine has been a goal for years and my original plan was almost too detailed to the point that if I wasn’t open minded to altering the plan of it, it probably wouldn’t have worked out. So, be open minded, and believe that if you work hard it will come to life. Also, have confidence in yourself, many people don’t have the guts to dream so big and actually make it a reality, and that already says a lot about you having that motivation, so be confident in your vision and what you stand for. The world needs your courage more than you amy realize.

Our Updates:

Garden bed installation at Child Advocacy Center

Kristina R. 15 April 2019 14:53 With so much gratitude in my heart, and thanks to the grant provided by Peace First, I am pleased to announce that we have successfully installed three garden beds at Child Advocacy Center! The Child Advocacy Center in Gainesville provides a child-friendly, safe and supportive environment for abused and neglected children. The Center is a place where professionals – social workers, counselors, law enforcement officers, state attorneys, victim advocates, medical professionals and others – work as a team to coordinate investigations and interventions for each child abuse case. To me, these are the centers that need the garden beds the most, not only because this center is facing a high degree of food insecurity, but also because these kids go through a lot of stress and trauma in their home environment, so getting the opportunity to work on the garden is very therapeutic and beneficial, not just in the produce it grows but also for the mind body and soul.