2013 Fall/Winter Bulletin

November 4, 2013

Dear Friends of Plenty,

While assembling the new Plenty Bulletin we were reminded about how so much of Plenty’s work involves children. There’s “Kids To The Country” and “Books To Kids.” Karen’s Soy Nutrition Program in Guatemala City is about improving the nutrition for children of families living off a huge dump and landfill. Plenty Belize has been largely focused on creating elementary school gardens in the southern Toledo District. When we started Plenty in 1974 we had no idea what kinds of things Plenty was going to be doing let alone how we would pay for it. In the very beginning the Farm Community, five or six hundred young adults and kids paid for early efforts, which mostly involved giving away surplus food grown by our farming crews. In Guatemala after the earthquake of 1976 we had the good fortune of developing a partnership with the Canadian International Development Agency, and we began to get support from friends and family and a quickly growing list of donors.

As expenses mounted we would also send out Farm community volunteers who did construction work and painting jobs. We even had men working on oil rigs down in the Gulf. This was all taking place well before computers and the Internet. Nobody had a website. Social media consisted of land line telephones and US Mail.  We did have a network of ham radios at work centers and project sites and a dedicated crew of techies who helped keep us connected. In fact, it was over a ham radio set up in our horse barn that we first learned of the earthquake in Guatemala via gripping first-hand reports from the scene, so gripping in fact even though we had never attempted a project outside the US we had to go and see if we could help. Of course, as soon as computers became available and half-way affordable we went for them. Now we’re so wired up no tragedy on earth escapes our awareness.

We’re often asked how do we decide which glaring need to respond to. There’s no simple answer. Our experiences in Guatemala with the Mayans opened our eyes to the plight and primary importance of the world’s Native Peoples and made supporting Native Peoples a priority for Plenty. If you’re human the plight of children cannot be ignored. It really bothers us that more than 20,000 children die every day for no other reason than the poverty they were born into. Even here in the comparatively well-off USA, one in four children is living below the poverty line. Sadly, none of this has to be. The resources are there but, as we all know, more than enough for what is needed is being wasted on you know what. Don’t get me started. Next year Plenty turns 40 but Plenty is still a relatively small NGO and we know we’re able to have little effect on those disheartening statistics about children. Nevertheless, it’s also apparent that what we are able to do produces tangible benefits for the people involved and that’s enough to encourage us to keep at it.

In the early years of Plenty we had a refurbished Greyhound Scenic cruiser bus that read in the destination window on the front, “Out To Save The World.” It’s necessary to be bold when you’re young and believe you can do anything.  Forty years ago if you had told us that people and nations would still be blowing each other up in 2013 we would have said, “no way.” We figured, no we knew, after Vietnam, that war would soon be abandoned as a means of solving our differences. That was self-evident to us. Over the past 4 decades we have learned that our species’ capacity for selfishness and animosity is almost the equal of our capacity for tolerance, generosity and love. Almost, but gratefully not equal to. And therein lies the hope that lifts us out of bed in the morning to try again to do something beautiful and worthwhile, anything. On our worst days, a simple kindness given or received can be enough.

Thanks for all the good and beautiful things you do and thank you for your heartfelt friendship. The longer we do this, the more we appreciate you.

Yours truly,

Peter Schweitzer
Executive Director