Sarakay Johnson writes about the progress made a month into her and fellow student Courtney Stanley's trip to Munsieville, South Africa
Sep 26 2012
This starts week number four of my internship here in Munsieville, and I cannot believe time is going by this fast! Last week Courtney and I began work on a big project that I hope will have a lasting positive impact on the people of Munsieville.
As I mentioned in my last post, Courtney and I planted a small vegetable garden. This served as a pilot to see how the vegetables that were planted would thrive in the climate and sun exposure. Now that we understand what types of vegetables are appropriate to grow at this time of year and in this climate, we can take our project to the next level with the help of a product called Garden Soxx®. We are encouraging the women of the community to grow their own vegetable gardens using this product. Garden Soxx® was developed by a company called Filtrexx International and consists of a black mesh material filled with weed-free compost. The mesh material can be cut to any desired size, and it creates perfect growing conditions for a garden without requiring a large piece of land or nutrient rich soil. The compost-filled mesh can be placed anywhere and, with appropriate watering and care, will grow a small garden. What Courtney and I would ultimately like to see is a community full of these homegrown gardens, with one at every home in Munsieville.
We are piloting this project with five houses in Mshenguville that we think would most benefit from this initiative. Mshenguville is an informal settlement within Munsieville, and the houses there were selected based on household income and the number of children living in each home. On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, Courtney and I walked through Mshenguville with Safira, one of the ladies working with The Thoughtful Path, so we could find the houses and talk to the families to get them interested in the idea of growing their own gardens. We are thinking of making the garden growing into a competition so that the families will be encouraged to take care of and look after their gardens. Ultimately, though, this project is about sustainability and teaching the women to garden for themselves and then going out and teaching their neighbors to do the same. We had successful home visits in Mshenguville, and this week we will begin gathering the materials for the gardens and teaching the women how to start using their Garden Soxx®. Imagine how great it would be for every family in Munsieville to be growing their own vegetables!
There were some very surreal moments when I could not believe I was actually being invited to sit in someone’s house in Mshenguville. While it is easy to refer to the structures there as shacks, it became very real to me that they are homes. They are places where people cook meals, spend time with their family, and find rest. There is a noticeable sense of pride from the residents, especially women, about where they live. One lady even apologized to us for the messiness because she had not had a chance to clean that morning. Another lady was doing her laundry and, when she saw us approaching, was quick to go inside and grab crates for us to sit on because that was all she had and she wanted us to be comfortable. I was very touched by how welcoming these people were. Even though they don’t have much, they offer what they do have in order for guests to feel more comfortable…in their homes.