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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Be'er Sheva, South, Israel

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Be'er Sheva, South, Israel

Yonahmbenstein



Registered: December 2018
City/Town/Province: annandale-on-hudson
Posts: 1
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So many labels and colorful packages with smiling families cover the food that we unconsciously choose to consume every day, but where does all this food come from before it gets to the store? I doubt it looks anything like the picture.
It was my turn to do the family shopping that hot week at the end of July last year. As I took my time passing slowly through the many aisles in the store just looking at all of what our blessed lifestyle has to offer.
For as long as I can remember I was fascinated by food and where it comes from. When I was six, after learning where our meat comes from I became a vegetarian and at 14, to my father's horror, a vegan.
My love for the environment and sustainability drove me to go far from home to study in a special environmental high school and boarding school in the Negev desert in southern Israel.
This was a big step out of my comfort zone and a step in the right direction to achieving my goals.
After having some time over the summer to think more about how I want to use my time in the upcoming year, I decided that I want to do something beneficial to my local community and related to my personal interests the Apprentice Ecologist Project was my perfect opportunity to do just that.
I happened to watch that following week a ted talk by Ron Finley who started his own community garden in south central L.A. He has single-handedly transformed his neighborhood by filling abandoned houses and empty lots with more community gardens, leading to a shift in the residents eating habits, community, health and overall quality of life.
I was inspired and motivated to start something similar in my own community. I contacted a family friend named Ori who works in the environmental department at the Beer Sheva municipality.
Beer Sheva is the largest city in southern Israel and is mostly comprised of immigrants and lower income families.
Ori was very excited to hear my idea and connected me to a local community center in the Dalet neighborhood where I lived in the city while offering me a small budget to get the necessary supplies.
By the time all of this happened a couple friends from school wanted to be involved as well and we were on our way of establishing our first community garden and urban farm.
Most of the people living in Dalet neighborhood are Jewish Ethiopian immigrants who were forced to leave their homes due to the harsh condition while dreaming about a better future in Israel. Most of them have stayed in closed communities settling in lower-income neighborhoods after being assigned special housing from the state. The new generation was forced to adapt quickly to the new environment and has lost a lot of the heritage and culture that the older generations still share. We got to know a few people from the community and found an empty lot of land in the center that no one was taking care of that was perfect for our small and ambitious project.
On the first Saturday in August we organized a big event and invited all of the neighbors to join. We called it a planting fest and came with high spirits. Unfortunately, only a few people from around the lot came to help. We planted a few rows of vegetables and put up a fence around the area. after that day we were not particularly optimistic about the future of the project. In the following week, we came back to water the newly planted plants and noticed that there is a growing interest in this small piece of land in the center of the neighborhood. People just couldn't ignore the small garden. We decided to try our luck one more time, this time advertising with signs all over the neighborhood. The following Saturday to our great surprise about a hundred people showed up to help. We brought much more plants and equipment and even a local grain from Ethiopia called teff.
After we have successfully established the garden with rows of delicious leafy vegetables, cherry tomatoes, and grains in addition to two improvised benches as a sitting area and a compost pile we felt quite accomplished in our work.
The real feeling of accomplishment from the Apprentice Ecologist Project, however, came in the following few weeks as we came back to water the plants, this time with the help of many other local people. Watching and hearing their experiences was truly inspiring. We realized that for many people in the neighborhood this was the first time that they have stepped outside to talk to their neighbors just to get to know them and had a feeling of a real community. A lot of the older people had a place to go and hang out in the long hot days, they started telling each other old memories of planting teff with their mothers in Ethiopia, and the kids had a new and safe space to play in.
A few weeks later, we were told that the garden had a big impact on the eating habits of the residents. Most of the food that is easily available in the area is fast food from local restaurants serving mostly hamburgers and pizzas or cheap packaged food from the supermarket. They started eating the vegetables in the garden and realized that it is not significantly more expensive to buy a little more every week. As a result, they started cooking more at home and the kids were eating traditional, nourishing meals.
Another surprising effect that this small garden had, was that once there was a pretty communal area in the center, even people who were not involved in the project stopped their habit of littering and throwing trash around the building. Everyone made more of an effort to care for his or her waste and the cleanliness of the neighborhood.
I think I have learned more about the world while conducting this project than in my last year in school. This project is one of the first times that I pushed myself so much into unknown territory. I don't have any experience organizing community events like this or taking a leadership position. I'm sure that these skills will help me as an Environmental and Urban study major in college and after that as I will use my education to help the environment in many other ways.
To see a direct impact that your actions had on so many people is a real blessing. The best part is that me and my friends had to move away at the end of our school year, but the people in the neighborhood are now maintaining the garden all by themselves, they have planted new kinds of plants, the kids painted the fence and due to the great interest they are even talking about starting a new garden in another location in the neighborhood. We still come every once in a while on a Saturday to catch up with our new friends and sit pleasantly in between the plants, just enjoying the shade.
Date: December 29, 2018 Views: 322 File size: 13.7kb : 276 x 183
Hours Volunteered: 80
Volunteers: 4
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 20
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