2017 Spring/Summer Bulletin

Books To Kids in Belize

Students and teachers at the Barranco Village school
with new books.
(photo by Jim Selin)

Over its first ten years, Books To Kids (BTK) has given out over 225,000 books.
In January Jim Selin, Books To Kids Director and his wife Barbara Clinton visited Plenty Belize to explore the needs and opportunities for distributing children’s books in the Toledo District. They visited schools and met with staff and parents. Jim’s assessment was that the need for children’s books in the Toledo District’s rural villages is even greater than in the neediest sites where BTK
distributes in the US. He watched the intense enthusiasm of kids as they dove into the books he was giving away.

Karen’s Soy Nutrition Project, Guatemala City

Heading back home with Soymilk and cookies. (photo by Tomas Heikkala)

Since 2010 Karen’s Soy Nutrition Project has been providing a healthy snack of protein-enriched cookies and soymilk two days a week to about 300 kids and elderly people from families living off what they can salvage from one of the biggest dumps in Central America.

Students at the Barranco Village School performed Garifuna drumming and dance for the benefit of their visitors. (photo by Barbara Clinton)

The dump covers more than 100 acres in a 300 foot deep ravine. Thousands of people live in makeshift
housing adjacent to the rim. Many are single mothers who came to the city looking for economic opportunities.

Jim Selin (as the Lorax) with his wife Barbara Clinton
(center) and Shannon DiGenova were the Books To Kids crew on Saturday evening February 11 in Slidell,
Louisiana when Books To Kids participated in the annual Mona Lisa/Moonpie Mardi Gras parade.

Hundreds of marchers with floats and musical instruments danced through the town over several hours. Thousands lined the streets and the Books To Kids crew gave away hundreds of books to kids and their families along the way.

Jim delivers 700 books for the Andrew Wilson School after-school program in New Orleans. Cole Williams (left) is the afterschool program site director. Cole is a musician and a composer with four albums and a touring band and she’s a Deejay on the local top radio station, WWOZ. Her program at the Wilson School includes African drumming, chess, creative writing and drama.

She told us how much she appreciates getting free books that she can give to the kids as gifts to take home.

Many thanks once more to the Posel and Philip R. Jonsson Foundations for their support.

Lined up for milk and cookies. (photo by Tomas Heikkala)

It is early Wednesday morning before the children start to arrive. Hilsia and her crew of three or four other women are busy making cookies in the room next to the chapel given to them to use in 2010 by Padre Paulino in his Santa Maria Church. Across the street, big yellow box dump trucks are noisily arriving piled high with the trash
generated by millions of people. The stench of the dump can be strong depending on which way the wind is
blowing. In the bakery room the women are mixing wheat flour with eggs, toasted soy flour, sugar, salt, oil, baking powder, butter, and vanilla. Candied sprinkles or coconut flakes will also be added to the tops of the freshly formed
cookies. They will bake enough cookies for the 300 plus children and a few elders who will arrive after 9 am today and also for the ones who will come on Saturday. Just before the children arrive at the front door of the church foyer, the women will set out the fresh cookies and the soymilk they made the day before in their kitchen a few blocks away. Everyone looks neat and clean as the doors to the church are opened and the first kids arrive. They come from the nearby shanty settlements and other
neighborhoods of the dump community with their moms, grandmothers, older sisters, a friend, or by themselves. They are excited to get this tasty and nutritious treat. Some of them take extra servings for the children at home.

It is a wonderful and joyful experience for everyone involved. Kindness is the natural and prevailing
atmosphere. My partner, Kathleen Rosemary, upon
witnessing this event said, “The heart is so strong here.” There is nothing in this world like happy and grateful
children. I have been hugged by a few of them over the years of coming here and photographing this simple, but vital event. It can be overwhelming emotionally.

In this city where there is so much poverty,
desperation, extortion, and other crime, it is a continuous miracle to keep Karen’s Soy Nutrition Program happening. It will be seven years old this August. Thank you for the donations that make it all possible. —Tomas Heikkala

Click here to watch new KSNP video.

Kids To The Country

Sizwe Herring conducts the Kwanzaa ceremony.

The Kids To The Country Winter Program consists of a Holiday Gift-making Workshop and pre-Kwanzaa Celebration, held each December. It is a great opportunity to reconnect with the children and enable them to become givers themselves at holiday time. It’s fun to see them leave with big bags of gifts they made for their families! The pre-Kwanzaa Celebration seeks to awaken the children to their personal talents and good principles to live by year-round. A big thank you to WHOLE FOODS in Nashville for donating fruit for the event and for the kids to take home.

KTC is gearing up for the 2017 summer program of Nature-based inspirational and transformational activities, and we look forward to seeing all the kids again. We are so grateful for the support that has enabled KTC to continue for over 30 years! We especially want to thank the Bay and Paul and Posel Foundations, the Margaret & Victor Nielsen Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, Vince Gill, Charlie Daniels, Tennessee Crossroads, and all the generous donors who come through every year. We are so blessed! —Mary Ellen Bowen

(KTC photos by Heather McDowell)

Plenty Belize

Left to rt. Roy Cayetano (Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Steering Committee for Indigenous Peoples) and
Patrick Scott (GEF Steering Committee for Agriculture), hand over a check to Prudencio Canti (Chairman Rio Blanco Maya Association) and Felicita Choco (Chairlady Rio Blanco Women’s Group)
(photos by Mark Miller)

In 1994 the people from the neighboring villages of Santa Cruz and Santa Elena succeeded in having 105 acres of rainforest declared a National Park – Rio Blanco National Park. For 22 years now it has been managed by the volunteer community group known as the Rio Blanco Maya Association (RBMA). The main attraction of this park is a spectacular waterfall and deep pool for swimming which attracts about 2,000 visitors annually. On March 28, 2017 RBMA and the Rio Blanco Women’s Group officially launched a joint project funded by Global Environmental Facility’s Small Grant Program (GEF SGP). Plenty Belize was proud to be a part of the
launching, and to work with the groups on this project, as we have worked with them for many years.

The people of Rio Blanco are indigenous Mopan Maya. Traditionally they work together with each other and the environment to make a good life for themselves and
future generations. Plenty Belize supports the idea that the environment and people are intertwined and

In this project, Plenty Belize will assist with technical support in building a safe exit from the natural pool, in providing solar powered refrigeration for the women’s group in support of their food sales, and conducting a series of trainings as the women’s group and RBMA continue to grow in the work they do as volunteers in their communities, protecting their
environment and creating sustainable livelihoods. — Mark Miller

Pine Ridge

The garden and greenhouse site at Slim Buttes on Pine Ridge Reservation.

Hundreds of sprouting seedling trays line the interior of the greenhouse in April. (photos by Misty Davis)

Thanks to the Philip R. Jonsson Foundation, Mary Fiore, Running Strong for American Indian Youth, and Dr.
David Winek for new funding and to the crew at Pine Ridge, especially Milo Yellow Hair and Lester “Bo” Davis.


Seven years ago, Plenty helped send an ambulance to the Henri Gerard Desgranges Clinic in Petit Goave, Haiti, 40 kilometers west of the capital of Port-au-Prince. It
arrived after the earthquake of 2010, but in time to be used during the cholera epidemic in the following years. It has since been used routinely to transport urgent cases to the nearby government hospital, as well as to facilitate a traveling health clinic overseen by clinicians from UCLA. Plenty continues to support the ambulance and the staff members that utilize it.
—Alex Miller

[Ed: Plenty has also been helping to fund medical volunteer tours to St. Joseph’s Medical Center that serves the more than 40,000 inhabitants of the county of LaVallee, Haiti.]

Chupar, Nepal Earthquake Recovery

Chupar students pose in front of their new school. (photos by John Vavruska)

Envirofit cookstove.

Woman carries off two stoves.

In February I went to Chupar with Uttam Rai to deliver cookstoves and check on last year’s school project. We delivered 135 Envirofit cookstoves, purchased through the Himalayan Stove Project, to the village. They went like hotcakes, selling out in 2 days. We charged each household 1,000 rupees ($10 USD), a fraction of our cost. We could have sold many more. These stoves use one fourth the amount of firewood of an open fire and discharge smoke outside, not in the kitchen.
—John Vavruska

[Ed: Plenty is the fiscal sponsor for earthquake recovery
efforts in Nepal for two villages, Chupar and Halchok.]

Bayou Christmas

(photo by Carl Evertson)

Last December, Plenty volunteers Elaine Langley and Carl Evertson distributed a truck-load of toys and
appliances to children and families of the Native Biloxi-Chitimacha Choctaw communities living on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.

Click Here To Read April/2017 Cover letter
April 2017
Dear Friends of Plenty,

Working on these periodic Plenty Bulletins always gets us focusing on Plenty’s ongoing projects because we’re reading reports, talking to project staff, and looking at photos and videos. That process never fails to impress and inspire. Most of Plenty’s projects have been going on for at least ten years, and some for over 30 years. That kind of longevity is first and foremost the result of resourceful, dedicated project staffs. The other essential factor is of course you, our so incredibly faithful donors. Some of you have been supporting Plenty over most of our forty plus year history. Many have been with us for at a decade or more. That’s pretty amazing. As a nonprofit NGO Plenty is relatively small and grassroots. We know the people we’re working with and they know us. Seeing directly how people benefit from a program serves to strengthen our commitment and makes us grateful to be involved in something good.

Everyone can agree that being involved in something good is worthwhile (even essential to any kind of happiness) and maybe doubly so when governments are intent on being less helpful. One of the early, I guess you could call it a “tenet” of the Farm community and Plenty was articulated by Plenty’s Founder Stephen Gaskin as, “Don’t take over the government. Take over the government’s function.” This not to say government doesn’t have an important role, ideally to protect the vulnerable and preserve the peace, just that we can’t depend on it to live up to those ideals, or sometimes even try. In 1971 when we came to Tennessee looking for land, the country was in turmoil. The war in Vietnam was still raging. The US Presidency was about to unravel. We were determined to get as self-sufficient as possible as soon as possible. When we started to feel even halfway self-sufficient we decided to create Plenty. More than forty years later, promoting self-sufficiency continues to be at the heart of Plenty’s mission and really should be something kids are studying in school.

Every Monday morning at 9AM Mountain Time, our friend and gardens project partner on Pine Ridge Reservation, Milo Yellow Hair, has an hour program on KILI-FM. (The Reservation radio station can be streamed over the Internet at www.kiliradio.org) For the first half hour he speaks in Lakota and the second half in English. Mostly he talks about gardening and the home gardens project Plenty has been helping to support since 1985, but on a recent Monday morning he spoke at length about how it looks like the new federal administration’s draconian budget cuts are expected to impact Pine Ridge. Indian Health Services, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and many of the programs that rely on these agencies for funding including reservation schools are facing severe cuts. This prompted Milo to strongly advise people to start and expand their gardens as one of the most practical things they could do in order to become not just more self-sufficient but to survive.
It needs to be a priority of every “conquering nation” to ensure that the descendants of the original people, the people in whose debt they will always remain, are not forgotten and are doing well.

To help us stay in touch and join discussions throughout the year we’ve created public Facebook pages for Plenty International, Kids To The Country, Books To Kids and Plenty Belize. We also now have a membership page called Friends of Plenty International, which everyone is welcome to join. On all of these and the website plenty.org you can find project updates with photos and videos and links to related stories and news. We can’t remember a time when it’s been more important for caring people to stay alert, connected, and engaged. Whether or not we’ve ever met we feel a deep sense of kinship with you. We love you and appreciate all the good things you are doing.

Peter Schweitzer
Executive Director

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