Educational Opportunities

Pine Ridge Gardens

Since 1985, the Slim Buttes Agricultural Development Project has enabled Oglala Lakota Sioux families across Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to prepare and maintain gardens to augment their diets with fresh organic produce.

Loretta with squash

Life expectancy on Pine Ridge (pop. 40,000) is some twenty years shorter than the national average for multiple reasons, including persistent poverty and food insecurity. Families are burdened by diabetes at 800 times the national average. Access to affordable fresh vegetables is literally life-saving.

Tom-with-watermelon

The project provides tractor services for garden tilling, seedlings, seeds,  advice and tools in response to applications from local residents. Many became interested by listening to the project’s weekly radio show “Talking of Things Growing” on the Lakota radio station, KILI FM. Over the years, the project has grown into eight of the nine Pine Ridge reservation districts.  From a humble start of six gardens in 1985, 200 gardens benefiting approximately 2500 tribal members were assisted in 2017. Plenty has supported the project with donations from individuals, foundation grants, skilled volunteers and our deep respect and partnership over many years.

GATE School Gardens program

The rural Maya and Garifuna people of Belize’s Toledo District rely to a great extent on subsistence slash and burn style agriculture focused on three major crops – corn, rice, and beans. This type of traditional agricultural practice uses 5-7 times the land space as sedentary agriculture. As the district’s population grows, it exerts increasing pressure on the land to produce. As a result, the district is faced with a vicious cycle of diminishing land productivity as fallow periods are shortened, and increasing destruction of rainforest habitats to create more agricultural space.

A key focus of Plenty Belize is its multi-faceted Garden-based Agriculture for Toledo’s Environment (GATE) program. GATE offers local sustainable livelihood and addresses the multiple threats of environmental degradation, unsustainable agriculture, and poor nutrition. The project strategy is to create organic school gardens that can be replicated by both village residents and other interested communities, demonstrating the methods and benefits of organic gardening and sustainable agriculture and their relationship to a healthy biosphere.
 
 
Since 2002 the GATE program has grown to incorporate over 40 schools throughout the Toledo district. Plenty Belize staff, local partners and volunteers partner with school staff and students on an ongoing basis. Teachers and students learn how to grow successful gardens and experience the science and the wonder of growing vegetables and herbs.

GATE includes several components that make a productive and sustainable program:

  • Extension work/ technical assistance;
  • Tools, seeds, and other supplies;
  • Training of village volunteers to assist with the gardens;
  • Classroom training; educational support to teachers in integrating the gardens into their curriculum;
  • Encouragement to start home gardens; and nutrition and food preparation education.
  • Assistance with other school needs such as improved water systems

The GATE project has been a collaborative effort of many people and organizations since its beginning in 2002. Our thanks and appreciation go to:

  • Plenty International donors
  • The Toledo District Education Department
  • The administrations of the Methodist and Catholic schools
  • PTA members, villagers, teachers, and principals
  • Sustainable Harvest International
  • Belize Minerals
  • Belize Marketing Board
  • Trees for Belize
  • Pan American Health Organization
  • Presbyterian Hunger Program
  • Atkinson Foundation
  • Protected Areas Conservation Trust
  • Toledo Development Corporation
  • SATIIM
  • Ya’xche Conservation Trust
  • Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment
  • UNICEF Belize
  • NOPCA
  • Peace Corps
  • VegFam
  • and many individuals.

 

Plenty Belize

Working together for the sustainable development of the people, communities, and environment of Toledo, Belize

Plenty Belize is a registered Belizean NGO with its office in the village of Jacintoville, Toledo District, Belize. Founded in 1997, Plenty Belize has a history of working hand in hand with other local groups to address local needs in a sustainable manner. Plenty Belize has acted both as a service provider within projects spearheaded by other organizations and as a project manager. Plenty Belize manages projects in agriculture, school gardens, health, nutrition, solar energy, women’s development, micro-enterprise and education, in close liaison with local government and non-governmental agencies.

Plenty Belize operates independently as a sister organization to Plenty International, with similar values and purposes. Since 1990 Plenty International staff and volunteers have contributed financial, technical and material support to the work of Plenty Belize.

The Toledo District in southern Belize is home to indigenous Mopan and Kek’chi Maya (who comprise about 65% of the district’s 33,000 plus residents), Garifuna, Creole, Mestizo, and East Indian populations. Levels of education, health, literacy, infrastructure and income in this district are consistently at the bottom of national averages. With 79% of residents living below the poverty line, the Toledo District ranks among the poorest in the western hemisphere. With over 50 villages, the population is rurally based and relies greatly on subsistence slash and burn style agriculture. Malnutrition is a persistent problem in Toledo with 45% of children showing signs of growth retardation. Hunger is not a problem in Toledo, as there is always something available to eat, even if it does not provide balanced nutrition.

Infrastructure in Toledo is the lowest in the nation, with many about 16 villages having no access to the electricity grid, and many not having potable water or decent sanitation facilities.

The Toledo District is also blessed with an abundance of natural resources. With 165 – 190 inches of rainfall each year, the climate is perfect for the beautiful rainforest that covers our land. The Caribbean Sea / Gulf of Honduras lies off our coast, as we lie near the southernmost point of the second longest barrier reef in the world.

Areas of focus

  • Sustainable development of energy, water, and food resources
  • Sanitation, Nutrition, and Health Education
  • Economic initiatives such as agro-business and micro-enterprise development
  • Environmental Awareness and Adaptation to Global Climate Change
  • Relevant Public Education
  • Inclusion of Women, Youths, and Persons with Disabilities in the development of their communities and beyond
  • Respect for the culture of the many indigenous peoples of the area.

Staff

Plenty Belize currently has an Executive Director/Programs Manager, and an Office and Accounts Manager; our Board is an active board assisting our work in many ways. We also have occasional local and international volunteers.

Executive Director/Programs Manager Mark Miller was born in the US but is now a permanent resident of Belize, living in the village of Jacintoville, about 8 miles outside of PG town. Mark holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Pollution Control, a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering, and formerly held a certificate in secondary education.

Office and Accounts Manager Randine Williams was born and raised and continues to live in the village of Jacintoville, Toledo.  Randine earned her Associate degree from the University of Belize.

Board of Directors

  • Chairwoman Ms. Dawn Dean, Entrepreneur and Agriculture specialist
  • Vice Chairman Mr. Augustine Lara, Principal at Santa Ana Government School, Toledo District
  • Treasurer Ms. Zipporah Supaul, Teacher and Head of Business Department at Toledo Community College
  • Secretary Mr. Jack Nightingale, Entrepreneur, Toledo District
  • Ms. Sherilee Woodye, Teacher at Indian Creek Primary School
  • Mr. Ignatius “Gomier” Longville, Owner of Gomier’s Health Food Restaurant
  • Ms. Cordelia Forman, Rural Community Development Officer for Toledo West for the Government of Belize
  • Mr Abib Palma, Entrepreneur and Agriculture specialist

Contact

Plenty Belize
PO Box 72
Punta Gorda Town
Belize
Central America

(501) 664 – 5024

solarbelize@gmail.com

Food, Environment & Health

Throughout all Plenty’s activities, we support the efforts of economically marginalized communities to provide for their own basic needs, promote local culture, and protect their natural resources.

In Guatemala and El Salvador, Plenty works with indigenous communities, womens’ associations, local universities, agricultural schools and other non-profit organizations to:

  1. address immediate nutrition and clean water needs of undernourished and vulnerable children and families
  2. help families increase and sustain production of essential, nutrient rich foods
  3. establish plantings of trees and bushes with erosion control and insecticidal properties and increase their use
  4. support local efforts to process and market fresh, quality, low cost non-gmo soy products and related high nutrient foods

Guatemala Programs and Partners

Through Karen’s Nutrition Program (KSNP) at the Guatemala City waste dumpsite, Plenty works with local residents to increase the quality nutrient intake of undernourished children, improve parents’ understanding and ability to address family nutrition needs, and expand local employment opportunities. 2016 funding partners: Misioneros de Caridad, Plenty donors.

Through the Essential Seeds and Trees Program (ESTP) in Chimaltenango, Plenty works with the Mayan women of Tecnologia Para Salud (Technology for Health) and agricultural technician Amado Del Valle Montufar to help 80 farming families grow and use trees and bushes with erosion control and insecticidal properties, and increase production of essential native beans, corn and non-gmo soybeans. 2013 funding partners: Atkinson Foundation, Plenty donors.

The ESTP also works with professors and students of the agriculture school Escuela Formacion Agricola (EFA) in Solola to grow and distribute three varieties of non-gmo soybeans.

essential seeds and trees seedlings
Amado del Valle (rt), Plenty technician Chuck Haren, and a member of Tecnologia Para Salud check tree seedlings at the project nursery.

Amado with TPS reps.
Amado del Valle with members of Tecnologia Para Salud in Chimaltenango, Guatemala.

 

Plenty also offers technical and material inputs to help Mayan community organizations ADIBE and FEDEPMA in Solola, and the women’s associations Grupo de Soya Santa Maria (GSSM) and Unidas Para Vivir Mejor (UPAVIM) in Guatemala City, to improve their processing and sales of fresh soy products and other high nutrient, low cost foods in their communities. Funding partners: Plenty donors.

ADIBE Soyaria crew
ADIBE soyfoods production staff in their “Fabrica de Soya,” which was originally established with Plenty’s assistance in 1980.

new GSSM milk making
A member of GSSM makes soymilk for the KSNP food supplementation project, which serves undernourished children of dumpsite workers in Guatemala City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

El Salvador Programs and Partners

Plenty began working with the non-profit organization El Cuenco, the Programa de Soya San Ramon (PSSR), and the University of El Salvador (UES) Schools of Medicine and Agronomy in May 2011, in response to requests for assistance to establish non-gmo soybean production.

With the UES School of Medicine and El Cuenco, Plenty helps families living in severe poverty (an income level of $50-$100/month for a family of 5-6 people) to address undernourishment and employment needs by establishing production and use of foods rich in vitamin A, beta carotene, iron and folic acid, such as moringa, chaya, chipilin and papaya, and the growing, processing and sales of red beans and protein rich non-gmo soybeans. Funding partners: Plenty donors, Trull Foundation, El Cuenco, UES.

saves 2 days planting 1:4 a
A farmer in San Ramon tries out a new wheel seeder provided by Plenty. The seeder can cut his planting time in half.

non-gmo soy between plantain
Non-gmo soybeans planted in January 2013 between rows of new plantain in the Bajo Lempa region of southern El Salvador..

 

 

Plenty and El Cuenco purchased filtering tools and provided training on their use to help 65 families eliminate bacteria, coliform, and reduce lead in their water. Professors and students from the UES School of Medicine conduct primary health care, nutrition, and related environmental education activities twice a month to help adults and children understand and address undernourishment and water contamination problems. Funding partners: UES, Plenty donors, El Cuenco, Trull Foundation.

Plenty assists the women of Programa de Soya San Ramon (PSSR) and the Comite de Mujeres San Carlos (San Carlos Women’s Committee) with technical and material support to improve the processing and distribution of fresh soy milk and fortified bakery and corn-based foods within their communities. Funding partners: Plenty donors, El Cuenco, Trull Foundation. 

Chuck does wokshop
Workshop in soy foods preparation with the Program de Soya San Ramon and  University of El Salvador nutrition students.

women make milk
Marta and family prepare a lunch of soymilk, omelets of egg, okara (pulp left over from milk production), and chaya/green leafy vegetables at Rancho Grande, El Salvador.

Plenty partners with UES professors and students to help families living in severe poverty  improve their health, food security, and employment opportunities. With UES School of Agronomy, non-gmo soybean variety trials are taking place to make seeds available to farming families.

Books To Kids

Since 2006 Books To Kids volunteers have distributed free, quality books to disadvantaged children in Louisiana, Tennessee, and most recently, rural Kentucky. As of June 2018 over 250,000 books have been provided to children through schools, families, community centers and libraries.

Books To Kids was started by Nashville, Tennessee resident Jim Selin, who had assisted Plenty in relief efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Jim saw first hand the devastation experienced by families in New Orleans and wanted to help.

Jim with kids in the Lower Ninth
Books To Kids Program Director, Jim Selin, with kids in in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in May, 2013.

 

Books To Kids is a way to help children move beyond trauma, cope with the difficulties of economically challenged neighborhoods, and ultimately, to increase their academic success.

Books To Kids promotes literacy and a love of reading.  With these skills, children are better equipped to make informed life choices. The program focuses on children up to age 11. These are the years when a child’s academic foundation can have its most powerful effect on both the child and their family.

Thirty four percent of the children in New Orleans live in poverty; the national average is 20%. (Source: Annie Casey Foundation Kids Count 2011). Poverty and early stress impact not only a child’s day-to-day life, but also the choices and opportunities she or he has to create future happiness and success.

Most of the children served by Books To Kids live below the poverty level, with the vast majority on the free or reduced lunch program at school.  In short we strive to reach those in greatest need. Over 7000 kids are served annually by Books To Kids.

Kids hold up books Brooklyn, NY
After Hurricane Sandy blasted coastal New York and New Jersey, Books To Kids distributed books in neighborhoods that had been hit.

 

Book acquisition operates year round. Books provided are chosen utilizing guidelines regarding illustrations, language, and content.  Volunteers help with acquisition, distribution and related tasks. Volunteers:

  • Acquire quality books from libraries, families, thrift and used book stores, yard sales, and other sources.
  • Process, box and label books for distribution.
  • Transport the books to schools and community centers, which distribute the free reading materials directly to children.

About four distribution runs to the Gulf coast area, Middle Tennessee and Appalachia take place annually. Current Gulf Coast distribution sites include

  • Arise Academy Charter School, New Orleans
  • Mildred Osborne Elementary School, New Orleans
  • Boothville-Venice Elementary School, LA
  • Arabi Community Center, LA
  • Point Aux Chenes community, LA
  • The Lower Ninth Ward Literacy project, New Orleans
  • Isle de Jean Charles families, LA
  • Abney Elementary School, Slidell LA
Isle de Jean Charles books
Kids living on Isle de Jean Charles, an island off the coast of Louisiana that is gradually eroding into the Gulf of Mexico, examine their new books from Books To Kids.

 

Current Middle Tennessee sites include Highland Park Elementary School in Columbia, The Farm School and Kids To The Country program in Summertown.

Sites in rural east Tennessee and Kentucky include Mountain Communities Parent Resource Center/Wynn Habersham Elementary School in Campbell County, Tennessee, and the Books To Kids Reading and Tutoring Center in Williamsburg, Kentucky. The Center also distributes books to elementary schools in Whitley County, Kentucky.

Research has demonstrated the correlation between the number of books in a child’s home and their academic success. That is why the majority of Books To Kids books, while distributed in schools, are destined for students’ homes, to be shared with family and friends.

NOLA book parade
Books were given away during the Literacy Parade in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in May, 2013.

 

Some books are donated to school libraries and some are used in accelerated reading programs.

Volunteers in Tennessee and New Orleans keep building new relationships with school principals, community center directors, and other children’s programs that suggest additional sites where books are needed and will be distributed.

Maria Prout, Principal of Boothville-Venice Elementary School says:

”When Jim brings books we organize them and set them out on a table in the library with a sign that says “Free Books from Mr. Jim”. We encourage the teachers to take their classes to see the books.

The children are then able to take home books they select. Since we’ve been able to build up our school library, we wanted to give the kids the opportunity to actually take books home.

The teachers work with the kids on how to organize their home libraries according to genre, author. Sometimes a student will bring back one of the books that they particularly liked to offer them to other kids or ask their teacher to read it to the class.

I would like to see more books from Plenty because our big push right now is literacy. The more we can get books into the hands of the parents that they can read to their kids and the more we can get books into the hands of the kids, the better our community is going to be.”

Dawn LaFonte, Principal:

”Thank you so much for the visit and the books you graciously brought to Pointe aux Chene and Oaklawn Jr. High. The students were delighted to have them. We frequently have visits at Oaklawn Jr. High by students who are mentally and physically impaired.

The law states that they must be included on a regular school campus, which delights me. However, we frequently don’t have materials on their level.

Your last drop of books to me had several wonderful Indian stories on their level. We shared them in the library and they were so excited!

The regular students in the library were excited to read to the challenged students as well. That was a blessing I did not think I would see!

Thank you for making such an important difference in the lives of our students. It means so much!”

Taking into account all expenses of acquisition, transportation and distribution, each book is provided to a child at a cost of approximately 55 cents.

Our greatest need is to add more volunteers and funding to continue and grow Books To Kids. Your donations and support are greatly appreciated!

For more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/bookstokids or contact info@plenty.org 

Kids To The Country

Plenty’s Kids To The Country (KTC) program offers at-risk urban kids the opportunity to take a break from troubled situations and develop a connection to nature through hands-on experience.  KTC takes place on 1750 acres of woods, fields and streams south of Nashville on Tennessee’s Highland Rim. The land belongs to a 45 year-old intentional community called the Farm, which has hosted KTC since 1986 and has about 200 permanent residents today.

KTC kids come from homeless shelters, refugee centers, and low-income neighborhoods. More than 5000 children have participated since the program began.

summer-crafts1
A KTC craft-making session next to the “swimming hole,” a pond with a sandy beach, which is a favorite spot for the kids.

Kids To The Country also provides the opportunity for kids to:

  • experience a multicultural environment
  • build a positive sense of community
  • learn nonviolent conflict resolution skills
  • develop healthful relationships
  • expand their world view
bike riders
The Farm has lots of safe places to ride bikes.

KTC structures activities to form lasting feelings of accomplishment and self-worth in each child. The nature school curriculum helps every youngster develop a connection to the rhythms of nature.

counselor-2-girls-in-the-water
Swimming lessons in the “swimming hole.”

Many former KTC kids return to become counselors in training.

Many of the youngsters we get to know live with the daily threat of random violence. One expressed  “I bet there’s no shoot-outs here like there are in my neighborhood.” In recent times we’ve seen the unthinkable happen in our schools and in our cities. We know that ignoring the needs of children in our communities ultimately affects us all. To find out how you can help or participate in the Kids To The Country program, please email us, or write to: KTC, 425 Farm Road, Suite 3, Summertown, TN 38483. Donations to KTC are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated!

For more information about Kids To The Country please visit us and like us on Facebook here.

Books To Kids

Since 2006 Books To Kids has given away over 1205000 children’s books along the Gulf Coast, in
Appalachia and Nashville, Tennessee.
Books To Kids thanks Target, the Posel Foundation, the Philip R. Jonsson Foundation, the PeyBack Foundation,  Kevin Curley, and Marian Collette.