Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thanks to YOU we finished the gardens!

What an amazing end to the month of May.  It was only 6 weeks ago that we shared our idea for the keyhole garden project with all of you, our friends and family.  Your response was beyond anything we could have imagined and we hope you are proud of the results! 

Benson Mariki, Executive Director and Founder of The Green Living Planet wanted to share a few words of thanks with everyone:

“We are grateful we have been able to build 8 keyhole gardens which are African style gardens; very sustainable for the environment and very ecological garden designs, as well. The gardens aim to support the lunch program for Terrat Primary School.  We will be bringing clean water and rain harvesting to Terrat, as well. We have planted 185 trees; our goal is to plant more than 500 so we are continuing to plant more.

We are thankful to everyone who was able to give what they had to support our cause and we have been doing really great. We ask for more help so that we can help more schools like Terrat.
In the future we will keep working with Terrat Primary School since it is our first school to work with.  Please continue to join The Green Living Planet by telling people about our great work, helping with fundraising or donating and by volunteering, as well!”

Over the course of just three days, May 19th, 21st  and 22nd, we worked with a handful of volunteers and almost 200 different students at Terrat Primary School to build the final 5 gardens for the school lunch project.  Then on Thursday, two days after finishing the gardens, Benson held a meeting with the parents of the Terrat community to discuss the lunch program and the next steps The Green Living Planet plans to take with the community going forward.  We are excited to tell you the meeting was a huge success!  The parents were proud and excited about the work their children had done with the gardens.  Feelings were unanimous – it is of the upmost importance that these children are given proper nutrition so that they can perform to their best potential in school. 

As we shared in our project proposal back in early April, any remaining donations we received would go toward bringing water to the school and surrounding community so that the gardens continue to thrive.  We held a couple of meetings with local chairman and officials and sourced ideas for identifying the most viable water options.  Next week we will share a bit more details with you about the project and the phases we have identified we will need to complete in order to ensure long-term access to water for the school, as well as the Terrat community as a whole.

In the meantime, take a minute to watch this video recapping the last few days of our garden builds.  A million thanks to all of you from The Green Living Planet, the teachers, parents and students of Terrat Primary School!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sometimes You Just Need to Pick Up a Shovel

I would venture to say that most of us have a big dream.  Most of those dreams probably have to do with serving a greater good.  Doing something bigger with your life.  Helping a person you know.  Meeting a need.  Filling a void.  Many of you are simply wondering how to make your dream a reality.  Where will you get the resources?  Who will help make that dream come true?

What most of us don't realize is that all you have to do is take the first step.  In the case of The Green Living Planet we just needed to pick up a shovel.  Terrat Primary School presented us with a need - or more accurately, many needs.  When Ben first started working with them, his support came by just planting a few trees.  Letting these kids, who had next to nothing, know that someone cared about them.  He did what he could, but we knew they needed more.  These kids need a reliable food source.  They need lunch during the day.  And they need clean water.  So, we put together a proposal and a plan to reach out to friends, family and the community to see who wanted to help.  As you know, our first priority was to build the 8 keyhole gardens to grow food for the students.  If (and that was a big IF) we had any money left over we would put it aside and start drawing up plans and proposals in partnership with local leadership and the community to see how we could bring clean water to Terrat.

Well, let me tell you what you all have done:  You have far exceeded our expectations!  Our gardens are fully funded and we are "well" on our way (no pun intended) to bringing water to the community of Terrat and its 14,000+ inhabitants!!

Less than four weeks ago, we sent out our first proposal and email, asking for help.  We had a dream.  A dream to feed these kids and eventually bring them clean water.  I'd be lying if I told you I thought we would even raise enough money to build the 8 gardens.  But take a look at that thermometer to the right...INCREDIBLE!!!

As you know we've had many students in the U.S. involved in the fundraising for this project.  Well, we have another amazing story to share with you:

We emailed Trisha Rhodes, a teacher at Foxview Intermediate School in De Pere, WI, to see if her class wanted to get involved.  Not only did they want to get involved, but these kids put together a PowerPoint presentation and posters to put up around school.  They decided to start a Penny War and got every class in the school involved, including challenging the teachers and staff!  The Penny War was last week, May 7 - 11.  This next part is big, so it deserves its own line:

These kids raised $1354.71 for the students at Terrat Primary School in Arusha, TZ!!!  That's One Thousand Three Hundred Fifty Four Dollars and Seventy-One Cents!!!!!

Miracles come from surprising places.  Who knew that one email to one teacher would lead to students the same age in two countries on opposite sides of the world working together to bring change?  The Foxview kids have raised the support and the Terrat kids are, once again, ready to get to work.

So many individuals are still supporting us and to you, we want to say thank you again!  The first half of our project is funded and, as we promised in our proposal, the rest of your donations are being saved until we have enough money to complete the water project.  We still have schools and classes fundraising, as well, and we can't wait to see what happens next.  (To be honest, every day here seems a little bit like Christmas lately!)  Maybe we will be surprised again and bringing water to Terrat will be more than just a dream!

You have all inspired us to keep pushing forward.  We are not only going to find a way to raise the rest of the money to bring clean water to Terrat.  We're going to keep doing projects in the Arusha community, knowing that all we need is a little faith.  All we have to do is pick up our shovels.  We hope in some small way, we've helped inspire you to do the same.

We're headed back to build gardens 4 & 5 tomorrow.  We have also had meetings with the local chairmen regarding the water project.  More details to come...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mission Complete

Saturday morning was rainy, overcast and a bit cold.  Nevertheless, the Terrat students arrived ready to build gardens #2 and 3.  Each week we make a few less mistakes and learn a few more lessons.  This week we were well-prepared!  We got all of the soil, compost, bamboo poles and grasses well in advance.  Four of our friends, Kate, Rusty, Ashley and Rich, were along to help.  We were feeling pretty confident that we would get both gardens built...and we did!

Our first garden is in the middle in the back, #2 and #3 in front.

Of course, the day wasn't without it's hiccups.  Lesson #1 - Just because we told the kids to bring buckets last week, doesn't mean they will bring them this week, too!  Lesson #2 - Even though the big kids are bigger, the little kids can carry more and work faster.  Split the teams accordingly.  And Lesson #3 (the most important lesson) - Even if they don't understand your language, children can read your faces and your temperament.  In those moments of frustration, where we mzungu argue about the "best way to engineer" the project, keep a smile on your face and joy in your voice.  The children miss it when it's not there - and they'll tell you so!

We went out to the school again this morning to continue the discussion on the water aspect of the project.  We have a lot to share with you about what's coming next!  Stay tuned for another update in the next day or two.   In the meantime, Gardens #4 and #5 this coming Saturday!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ready, set, build!

In just over 12 hours we'll be waking up here in Arusha and getting ready to go build gardens #2 and 3 at Terrat Primary School.  All of the supplies are ready and waiting for us and the kids can't wait to come back to build again!

We hope you all enjoyed our pictures and videos from last weekend's build.  The responses we got were so positive and encouraging!  It has been so much fun to keep you all posted on the progress.

Benson was out at the school this week, overseeing the delivery of supplies and the headmaster pulled him aside to ask him how he could ever say thank you for the support we've been able to give his school and students.  The smiles on the students' faces are thank you enough for us, but I could so easily relate to what the headmaster was trying to say.  Sometimes, thank you just doesn't seem to adequately express the gratitude one feels.  We feel the same way the headmaster did this week every time we share with you the progress of our project.

This truly is OUR project:  The Green Living Planet, Terrat Primary School, De Pere High School, Foxview Intermediate School, Bay Lane Middle School and all of the individual donors who have responded to a need a world away from their own.  We can't wait to get to work tomorrow and share with you how much more we have all accomplished together in the next few days!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Garden #1 Complete!

I'm going to say it one more time: Thank you!!  Wow.  We are overwhelmed, excited and hopeful about the changes coming to Terrat Primary School because of supporters like you!  Look at our thermometer to the right - we are getting closer and closer to our project goal.  Don't give up on us now.  Get creative and come up with ways that you can help these kids build their school lunch program!

Yesterday, Sunday May 6, was International Permaculture Day and because of some early donations, we got to head out Terrat Primary School to being the school lunch project.  We built our first garden yesterday and the build was a huge success!  Yes, we thought we were going to build 2 gardens, but reality and our grand notions of what could be didn't quite match up as planned.  It didn't matter though.  We had a great day!  We had asked to have 30 kids show up on Sunday to help and by the end of the day we had over 85 excited students eager to learn and be a part of the build.  I had the chance to walk part of the way home with some of them and they can't wait to come back next weekend to build the next two gardens.  That's right - you heard me!  These students are counting down the days until they can get up early on a Saturday morning, get dirty, sweat a bit and build two more gardens!!  Pretty amazing stuff.

Here is a link to the video we put together from yesterday, as well as a few pics below:
YouTube Video: Terrat Keyhole Garden #1

For more info, pictures and news "Like" us on Facebook!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

3 Days to Phase 1!!

Hey everyone!  We went out to Terrat Primary School today to meet with the teachers and headmaster of the school and finalize plans for this Sunday, International Permaculture Day.  Because of some early private donations we've received we are ready to build our first two keyhole gardens with the kids this weekend.  It's going to be a great day!  We will have two teams of 4 volunteers and 15 students, each building their own garden.  We won't just be building the gardens - Benson will be teaching the kids about the structure of the gardens, the importance of the utilization of compost to keep the soil full of nutrients and how to replicate the gardens at home.

Now for a shout out to some very important students back in the U.S.!

The 6th grade Bay Lane Middle School classes we featured yesterday are off to an amazing start.  The change is flowing in and after 2 days they have raised enough money to cover the cost of half of one garden!  Keep going, Bay Lane!!

Foxview Intermediate School in De Pere, WI is getting ready to kick off their fundraiser next Monday.  It will run for the entire week of May 7th and the students have challenged their teachers and staff in a Penny War for Dairy Queen Dilly Bars!  Some of the students even put together a PowerPoint presentation about the project to share with each of the homerooms and all of the faculty.  We are so impressed, students!!  Send us pictures once things get going next week and we'll post them on the blog, Facebook and website!

De Pere High School and the DPHS student council has also joined us in the Terrat School Lunch Project!  This weekend is their Spring Fling Dance and $1 from each of the tickets sold is going to Terrat.  We are blown away by your generosity!!  Thank you so much!  The Green Living Planet has also heard rumblings of a few sciences classes at DPHS doing a fundraiser, as well.  We'll keep you posted!
The keyhole gardens at Good Hope are doing great -
this is what we'll be building with the kids this weekend at Terrat!
I spied a little girl at Terrat trying to get water out of the spicket today.
The government only turns this water on a couple of hours each day.
Benson and the headmaster at Terrat - checking on 1 of the 183
trees we've planted at Terrat.  It has grown nearly a foot!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Kids We Love!

The Green Living Planet wants to send a HUGE thank you to Katie Rhody and her sixth grade class at Bay Lane Middle School in Muskego, WI!  These kids were filled with compassion when they heard about The Green Living Planet and our Terrat School Lunch Project and they decided they wanted to help raise money for the gardens.  Penny Wars were started this week at Bay Lane!  Thanks're making a big difference in the lives of other kids all the way over here in Tanzania.  Keep up the great work!