Belize

Plenty has been working in Belize since 1985 and today Plenty Belize is a recognized Belizean NGO with a permanent office and all Belizean Board of Directors in the southern Toledo District. Over the years projects have involved school gardens, midwife training, and solar energy.

Books to Kids in Toledo

In 2016 Books to Kids began the first distribution of slim readers to children in the Toledo District. This partnership between Plenty Belize and Plenty International builds upon the Books to Kids project run by Plenty International in Tennessee and Louisiana, USA. We provide books to children to own and have in their homes, approximately monthly, with the goal of the children building a small library of 10 or more books to read, trade, and enjoy.

Plenty Belize uses the help of board members, staff, and local volunteers to distribute the books, making this project efficient on a low budget. We have been distributing at:

  • Jacintoville
  • Santa Anna
  • Crique Sarco
  • Barranco
  • Punta Gorda Library After School Program
  • University of Belize Reading Club
  • Eldridge
  • Jalacte
  • Graham Creek

The children at each site choose their own book from those provided (there are always extra to choose from), and the site coordinator ensures that a record is kept of the children and their book choices. We also keep track of the reading level (below, average, above) as reported by the teachers. The coordinators often enter into discussions with the students about the books they have read, encouraging reading and literacy.

Plenty Belize looks forward to continuing this project for the next several years!

 

Sustainable Solar Energy in Santa Elena

Started April 2017 and ongoing (anticipated end date April 2019)

Collaborators

  • Plenty Belize
  • Barefoot College
  • Caribbean Community Climate Change Center
  • Ya’axche Conservation Trust
  • Maya Mountain Research Farm
  • Ministry of Rural Development
  • Ministry of Energy
  • Santa Elena Village

Funders

  • GEF SGP
  • Barefoot College
  • Government of India
  • Government of Belize
  • Plenty International

Project Goal

To promote the demonstration, development and transfer of low carbon technologies at the community level, by empowering Santa Elena to reduce GHG emissions by capacity-building and installation of renewable and sustainable energy systems.

Successes and Accomplishments

  • Two women from Santa Elena trained as Barefoot Solar Engineer, ie a solar technician who builds/solders charge controllers and solar lanterns.
  • The engineers are women
  • The engineers are Mayan from a remote village in Toledo
  • The engineers are not formally educated at secondary or tertiary level
  • Santa Teresa has a Solar Board that reports to Ministry of Rural Development that seeks to sustain the systems into the future.

Good Practices

  • Female Solar Engineer in Village
  • Solar Power Board puts control in the village
  • Steering Committee Meetings open to the village
  • Training both in India and in Belize
  • Rural Development assists solar Board

 

Adapting Food Security to Climate Change in Jalacte

Start date October 2018; Anticipated Completion October 2019

Activities and Intended Results

  • Promote Equity, Sustainability and Resilience to Climate Change with regards to Food Security
  • Three covered agricultural structures producing food, one managed by the women and older youth of village, two managed by school youth and PTA. 25% of the production from each structure will be sold to provide funds for maintenance. The women and youth will keep 50% of their production and donate 25% to the school feeding program. The school youth and PTA will use 25% of their production for incentives and donate 50% to the school feeding program. Thus the covered agriculture structures are maintained, livelihoods are enhanced, and food security for the children in the school is greatly improved.
  • Two distinct agro-foresty areas are set up with short, medium and long term plantings so as to enhance livelihoods and enhance food security while adapting to and mitigating climate change
  • Water for irrigation and chickens will be readily available through the combination of solar water pumping from the river, water re-use, and rainwater collection.
  • Knowledge and Attitudes with regards to gender and climate change are enhanced amongst the participants.

Collaborators

  • Plenty Belize
  • Ministry of Agriculture
  • Ministry of Education
  • Ministry of Rural Development
  • Jalacte PTA, School, and Village
  • Jalacte Women’s Group
  • Regeneration Belize
  • Ya’axche Conservation Trust

Funders

  • GEF SGP
  • Government of Belize
  • Plenty International

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.

Disaster Relief & Recovery

Current Activities and past efforts

Plenty was founded in 1974 to channel aid and support to families and communities affected by natural disasters, and we have provided disaster relief in many countries, both in the U.S. and abroad since then.

Current Activities 

  • Planning by the Nepal team headed by John Vavruska is underway for further work in the village of Chupar, Nepal, including expansion of the new school constructed by the project in 2016 with local labor. 
  • Six portable solar powered high-volume community water filtering units will be on their way to Puerto Rico in mid-June through the work of AidElevated.org, a new Plenty partner.

 

 Plenty’s Relief and Recovery efforts – a chronological summary

Nepal Earthquake Relief (2015)

Plenty began a fiscal sponsorship of two relief and rebuilding projects in Nepal, directed and carried out by skilled and dedicated volunteer staff, which are still in process

Chupar Village

Immediately after the earthquake in April 2015, this relief and rebuilding effort headed by former Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, John Vavruska, went into gear – providing food and temporary shelters for the people of Chupar. Further efforts in 2016 and 2017 included rebuilding homes and a new school, built with local labor using traditional methods and Gabon banding for earthquake stability. Continued support for this village is being planned in 2018. 

Halchok Village

Here is the first letter appeal from the Alsops in 2015, which describes their efforts:

“As you know, Nepal has suffered a terrible earthquake – in fact two earthquakes, one on April 25 and the second on May 12th. Our son Vajra was in Kathmandu, where he was born, for both quakes and witnessed some of the terrible destruction and loss of life in the Durbar square of Kathmandu where he has an apartment, thankfully in a modern, earthquake-resistant house. Like many people, we immediately responded to the earthquake by giving donations to various institutions dedicated to disaster relief. It soon became apparent that much of the most immediate and elective relief work was being done by small groups of Nepalis and expat foreigners who were supplying relief to communities they knew and had a connection with.
One friend in Santa Fe, John Vavruska, set up a mini relief project for the village of Chupar, ancestral home of other mutual Nepali friends in Santa Fe, Uttam and Budu Rai, funneling donations through a small non-profit: Plenty International http://plenty.org/news/ His effort has inspired us. Just after the first quake, Vajra visited Halcok, the village where we lived for over ten years in the 1980s and 1990s. While he was happy to report that his best friend in Nepal, Sukri Putwar, and his family were safe, there had been widespread destruction of the poorer houses of the village. Vajra wrote us on April 28, “I went up to see Sukri at the village. 56 houses collapsed (out of maybe 100?). All the old houses, gone. It’s as if an entire memory has been erased. Sukri incredibly lucky to be alive. Made me realize that the real destruction in Nepal must be up in the little mountain villages, in the stone houses.”

We decided that we wanted to help, and with the eager participation of the Nepali staff in the office we work with in Nepal, we were able to send up a shipment of food and essential supplies to the homeless villagers encamped below the ruins. We are now planning to provide supplies for more substantial temporary housing, food, sanitation and other priorities.

Plenty International has graciously agreed to allow our Halcok relief effort to run donations through their organization, thus making donations tax-deductible in the US. 97% of donations will go directly to Halcok relief. We will be paying our own expenses for travel to Nepal and once there. If you would like to join this effort focused on helping one needy village, please send your tax-deductible donation (checks only please – no credit cards or Paypal), made out to Plenty International and write on the note line “Halcok Relief Nepal”.

Please consider adopting Halcok and helping “one village at a time” survive now and rebuild in the future. Thank you.

Ian, Lois, Vajra, and Vasundhara Alsop”

Super Typhoon Haiyan – the Philippines (2013)

Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013 with brutal force. International relief efforts were massive and continue  long-term. Plenty was asked to help the village of Alta Vista on the island of Leyte,  home to about 1,500 people. Every house in the area lost their roof and/or sustained other damage. Alta Vista Elementary School, with 280 k-6th grade students, lost its roof, desks, books and supplies. Plenty provided funds to repair the school and replace books and student supplies. 

 Gulf Coast  (2008 and ongoing)

Louisiana’s Gulf Coast communities are vulnerable to frequent storms and hurricanes and have no protective levee system. The BP oil disaster in the spring of 2010 added a devastating blow to the Gulf’s environment and the traditional fishing and shrimping livelihoods of its coastal people.

In Terrebonne Parish, working with Tribal leaders, Plenty provided emergency distributions of food and clothing to some of the most impacted Biloxi-Chitimacha Indian families. Since 2008, thanks to the efforts of Plenty volunteer Elaine Langley and friends, the annual “Bayou Christmas” has provided toys, books, groceries and other aid to over 100 families.  

Replacement beds and mattresses were provided for 16 families after Hurricane Isaac in August 2012, funded by the Philip R. Jonsson Foundation.

Plenty has assisted the Pointe-au-Chene Biloxi-Chitimacha tribe to complete a raised community center that also serves as a tribal office and hurricane shelter, and house a library and computer lab. The center was completed in 2014.

Supporting the people of the Gulf since Katrina enables us to witness longer-term impacts to the health and wellbeing of these highly vulnerable coastal communities.

Haiti earthquake (January 12, 2010)

The National Palace in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake.

When Haiti’s overcrowded capital collapsed into a deadly avalanche of rubble in the massive quake, Haiti was already the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere with 70% unemployment and an infant mortality rate of 60 per thousand births, ten times greater than the US rate.

Elaine gives medicine to a little girl.
Plenty medical volunteer works in a temporary emergency clinic in the village of Cayes Jacmel after the earthquake.

Plenty assistance to Haiti from 2010-13 has largely focused on health and medical needs:

  • Medicines and supplies for the immediate relief effort, and ongoing to the ADHD clinic in La Vallee; water purification tablets to Le Mabouya, a Haitian environmental NGO in Cayes-Jacmel, (southeast Haiti); and to a clinic in Cape Haitian (central plateau), run by the Haitian NGO Sante Total – $7,000
  • Ten heavy-duty wheelchairs designed for rural use by Whirlwind Wheelchairs – $2200
  • Support for clinical volunteers, and teaching workshops for Haitian midwives on Home Based Life Saving Skills – simple interventions that save mother and infant lives – $1,800

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: (August/September 2005)

Together, these Gulf Coast hurricanes constituted the most devastating natural disaster to hit the U.S. in its history.

NOLA under water
New Orleans was 80% under water three days after Katrina.

Times of great tragedy often generate great compassion, and this disaster was no exception. The world witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of caring and mobilization in response. We are very grateful for the many generous people who channeled their time, talents and funds through Plenty to help.

plastic on roof
Plenty volunteers cover a roof with plastic.

Multiple runs of volunteers and supplies were organized from our home base in Tennessee to assist hurricane victims in Louisiana and Mississippi in building repair, supply distribution, medical care, mold abatement, needs assessment, and more.

Joel gets into it
Volunteers gutted houses in preparation for rebuilding

Other supply and volunteer runs were mobilized from Tennessee, Texas, and Florida. Volunteers came from as far as New York, California, and Oregon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Plenty team in New Orleans.

Food, water, medical supplies, blankets, heaters, clothing, batteries, cleaning and other supplies were purchased and distributed thanks to donations raised from individuals and community fundraisers. 

Katrina relief work also led to the creation of Plenty’s ongoing program, Books To Kids. 

Hurricane Stan: (October 2005) Guatemala

Torrential rains caused deadly mudslides around Lake Atitlan in the department of Solola, which killed at least 600 people and displaced thousands in the traditional Mayan communities of this area. Plenty provided $8,700 for emergency and longer term food relief, which was coordinated through Plenty’s Central American Food Security program partner Asociacion De Desarollo Integral Belen (ADIBE) and their soy foods processing facility, which is located near the affected area.

Tsunami: (December 2004) India and Sri Lanka

On December 26, 2004, a devastating tsunami struck 1,356 miles of Indian coastline, destroying or seriously damaging 883 villages and affecting 1.2 million people. Over 10,000 people died in mainland India. We were asked by a trusted colleague working in India to support  a project to assist pregnant women and children. $2,870 was utilized for playgrounds for children in two villages (Chinoor and Velangiriyan Pettai), as a way to help them in their trauma recovery. The remaining $5,577 supported a project to provide pre- and post-natal care, nutritional food and vitamin supplements, vaccinations, psychological counseling, and special needs assistance to 276 pregnant women and 391 nursing mothers living in 25 villages that were devastated by the tsunami.

Hurricane Iris: (October 2001) Belize

This category 5 hurricane swept through southern Belize in October 2001, destroying homes, crops, and rainforest. Plenty Belize staff and volunteers set up outdoor emergency kitchens in 5 villages, where residents and the Plenty crew produced and distributed over 1000 lbs. of high protein dry cereal and drink mixes and coordinated other aid delivery in the area. Funds raised also purchased tools and seeds to enable 275 farming families to begin replanting. We assisted our longterm friends the Toledo Cacao Growers Association to  set up 4 village tree nurseries with drip irrigation by solar water pumps. About $17,000 was raised for these efforts from individuals and small grants.

Hurricane Mitch: (November 1999) Nicaragua

Plenty raised $5,726 through individuals and two small grants for Hurricane Mitch relief. Plenty built 2 houses and repaired three others, installed two neighborhood water wells, and supported a local woman’s group MUPROVI (Women Producing for Life) in the town of San Juan de Limay, by donating food and supplies for their temporary Olla Comunal (community kitchen). The community kitchen served approximately 80 kids one meal a day, 5 or 6 days a week for several months. Two Plenty representatives drove a load of medical supplies and house wares from Texas to Nicaragua, and donated their four wheel drive Toyota truck to help move supplies to families who lost homes and more in the hurricane. They also worked with MUPROVI to replant trees and re-establish vegetable gardens in the year following Mitch.

Guatemalan earthquake: (February 1976)

Two years after Plenty’s founding, we began our international work by responding to a massive earthquake that struck the Guatemalan highlands, killing over 23,000 people. Early relief efforts involved volunteer carpenter crews from the Farm Community who began rebuilding the town of San Andreas Itzapa and outlying rural communities. Deep underlying conditions of poverty and social inequality were revealed through this work, and seeing an opportunity to provide longer term assistance, the Farm Community, through Plenty sent more volunteers with health care, farming, communication and related skills. Initial relief efforts evolved into a multi-year program involving hundreds of volunteers, partly funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). 1200 homes, 12 schools and several clinics were rebuilt, a radio station established, agriculture and nutrition projects, health care training, and a free clinic provided services, and orphaned and malnourished children were cared for by Plenty volunteers.

adobe rubble 2
The earthquake in Guatemala killed 23,000 people and left a million homeless.

 

Itzapa camp crew portrait2
Plenty Guatemala volunteer camp, 1977.

Tornadoes in southern US: (1975-76)

In Plenty’s earliest years, we helped our neighbors in times of need, responding to local disasters by collecting and transporting truckloads of food, blankets, and clothing from Plenty headquarters at the Farm Community in middle Tennessee to tornado and flood victims in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.

2014 Fall/Winter Bulletin

November 2014

Dear Friends of Plenty,

  You’ve probably heard by now that Plenty’s founder and mentor, Stephen Gaskin passed away on July first of this year, right before our annual Plenty Board meeting. He hadn’t been directly involved with Plenty over the past few years but, without his original inspiration and vision, Plenty would not have been born. I first met him in 1968 in a church basement in San Francisco where he was holding meetings with a couple of hundred hippies on Thursday nights. Over the course of the following year these meetings grew to about 1,500 and they filled a local rock and roll hall, the Family Dog, on Monday Nights. Stephen would sit on a low wooden platform, talking without a microphone and lead a conversation related to the things we were all thinking about in those days like spirit and energy, war and peace and what could we young hippies do in a country and a world that we believed desperately needed some kind of spiritual awakening. We viewed Monday Night Class as the Continental Congress for the Second American Revolution, a revolution that would be nonviolent and motivated by love, but a real revolution in the sense that we wanted to live very differently based on our discoveries of who we were and what it means to be human. Of course, the late sixties and early seventies were traumatic times with the ever-present specter of an insane war in Vietnam and the assassinations of icons like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Then came the shooting of four students at Kent State by the National Guard on May 4, 1970.  That was on a Monday and that night, when we were gathered in the Family Dog as usual, the voices for arming ourselves and taking it to the streets were especially loud and insistent. It truly felt like the country was on the brink of a generational civil war and Stephen played a pivotal role as a voice for peace, pointing out that, in the first place, we couldn’t win a shooting war and, most importantly, our revolution would be rendered worse than meaningless, just another sorry chapter in the immensely stupid and self-destructive cycle of violence that seemed to have forever plagued our species.

On October 12 of that year, about 200 of us headed out across America with Stephen who had been invited on a speaking tour at universities and churches and community centers and town halls. We had moved into school buses fitted out with beds and kitchens and wood stoves. The first gig was in Minneapolis. We went to New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Nashville, Boulder, CO and dozens of cities and towns in between, finally ending up back in San Francisco with the understanding that it was time to put our money where our mouth was.

The first step was to make a community where we could live together. We decided to head to Tennessee, to get away from the political noise on both coasts and where we might be able to afford land. We got lucky and found a thousand acre farm for $70/acre. In the beginning we were just learning how to farm and feed ourselves and deliver babies and deal with no running water and no electricity. We were very poor but we still felt like we had more than enough to be able to share. Because we had always been committed to effecting change in the world, the next natural step was to start Plenty. Through these early years of the Farm and Plenty, when we were pretty green and wet behind the ears and learning how to get along with each other (by 1974 when we founded Plenty there were about 600 of us) Stephen was an essential guide and I don’t think we could have made it without him. The rest is history and we actually have a book in the works (“The Roots of Plenty”) that will be out before year-end. On top of that, the Farm and Plenty are on display in the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville as part of an Intentional Communities of Tennessee exhibit until the end of November. Imagine that.

I’d like to sign off with love and a big thank you to Stephen for his courage, vision and perseverance. I want to make a special plea for our friends and colleagues, Bisi and Mahmoud Iderabdullah who manage Imani House International, which has a clinic that’s on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. Two of their staff have died from the disease. They need all the help we can give them. The new Bulletin is full of stories of people who inspire. They’re all on the front lines of the global campaign to make things better, to find and create solutions and to take care of others. They deserve our help.

With thanks to you from all of us at Plenty,

Peter Schweitzer

To view the Fall/Winter 2014 Plenty Bulletin simply click this link:
Plenty Bulletin Fall/Winter 2014

Plenty Bulletin Fall/Winter 2014

November 2014

Dear Friends of Plenty,

  You’ve probably heard by now that Plenty’s founder and mentor, Stephen Gaskin passed away on July first of this year, right before our annual Plenty Board meeting. He hadn’t been directly involved with Plenty over the past few years but, without his original inspiration and vision, Plenty would not have been born. I first met him in 1968 in a church basement in San Francisco where he was holding meetings with a couple of hundred hippies on Thursday nights. Over the course of the following year these meetings grew to about 1,500 and they filled a local rock and roll hall, the Family Dog, on Monday Nights. Stephen would sit on a low wooden platform, talking without a microphone and lead a conversation related to the things we were all thinking about in those days like spirit and energy, war and peace and what could we young hippies do in a country and a world that we believed desperately needed some kind of spiritual awakening. We viewed Monday Night Class as the Continental Congress for the Second American Revolution, a revolution that would be nonviolent and motivated by love, but a real revolution in the sense that we wanted to live very differently based on our discoveries of who we were and what it means to be human. Of course, the late sixties and early seventies were traumatic times with the ever-present specter of an insane war in Vietnam and the assassinations of icons like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Then came the shooting of four students at Kent State by the National Guard on May 4, 1970.  That was on a Monday and that night, when we were gathered in the Family Dog as usual, the voices for arming ourselves and taking it to the streets were especially loud and insistent. It truly felt like the country was on the brink of a generational civil war and Stephen played a pivotal role as a voice for peace, pointing out that, in the first place, we couldn’t win a shooting war and, most importantly, our revolution would be rendered worse than meaningless, just another sorry chapter in the immensely stupid and self-destructive cycle of violence that seemed to have forever plagued our species.

On October 12 of that year, about 200 of us headed out across America with Stephen who had been invited on a speaking tour at universities and churches and community centers and town halls. We had moved into school buses fitted out with beds and kitchens and wood stoves. The first gig was in Minneapolis. We went to New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Nashville, Boulder, CO and dozens of cities and towns in between, finally ending up back in San Francisco with the understanding that it was time to put our money where our mouth was.

The first step was to make a community where we could live together. We decided to head to Tennessee, to get away from the political noise on both coasts and where we might be able to afford land. We got lucky and found a thousand acre farm for $70/acre. In the beginning we were just learning how to farm and feed ourselves and deliver babies and deal with no running water and no electricity. We were very poor but we still felt like we had more than enough to be able to share. Because we had always been committed to effecting change in the world, the next natural step was to start Plenty. Through these early years of the Farm and Plenty, when we were pretty green and wet behind the ears and learning how to get along with each other (by 1974 when we founded Plenty there were about 600 of us) Stephen was an essential guide and I don’t think we could have made it without him. The rest is history and we actually have a book in the works (“The Roots of Plenty”) that will be out before year-end. On top of that, the Farm and Plenty are on display in the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville as part of an Intentional Communities of Tennessee exhibit until the end of November. Imagine that.

I’d like to sign off with love and a big thank you to Stephen for his courage, vision and perseverance. I want to make a special plea for our friends and colleagues, Bisi and Mahmoud Iderabdullah who manage Imani House International, which has a clinic that’s on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. Two of their staff have died from the disease. They need all the help we can give them. The new Bulletin is full of stories of people who inspire. They’re all on the front lines of the global campaign to make things better, to find and create solutions and to take care of others. They deserve our help.

With thanks to you from all of us at Plenty,

Peter Schweitzer

To view the Fall/Winter 2014 Plenty Bulletin simply click this link:
Plenty Bulletin Fall/Winter 2014

Plenty Belize

Plenty Belize
The San Vicente Food Fair by Kate Ford

As an intern with Plenty Belize for the past two months, I recently participated in the San Vicente RC School Food Fair, which celebrated their graduation from Plenty’s Garden-based Agriculture for Toledo’s
Environment (GATE) Program.

After travelling roughly two hours to the last village along the San Antonio Highway, minutes from the
Guatemalan border, we arrived in San Vicente with two truckloads of food and people. There local cooks, a chef from Punta Gorda, interns and volunteers came together to create a huge feast for roughly 250 people. The afternoon’s menu included a bean stew with roots; stir-fried rice; sauteed chaya, callaloo and cabbage; and a Mayan bean and masa dish called chep.
Plenty congratulated San Vicente RC School for developing and maintaining a school garden with the GATE program. GATE teaches children about healthy eating and securing food, skills vital to food security domestically. The Belizean population is facing alarming health statistics: roughly 70% of the adult population is overweight or obese and 16% have type II diabetes. Eating a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, which GATE promotes, is an important step in addressing these health conditions. Over 20 schools in the Toledo District are “graduating” from GATE this year.

We had an awesome day celebrating the achievements in agricultural education in San Vicente while feasting on excellent healthy food.
Thanks to all for supporting Plenty Belize.

Plenty Belize

Plenty Belize held a five-day summer camp in July for 16 children ages 4-9 (see photo below). All of the
activities centered on nutrition and health, with the theme “Dirt Made My Lunch.” Each day the kids helped plan and prepare healthy lunches using the Belizean Food Basket for balanced meal planning. Garden games, such as water bucket relay race, compost race, beanbag toss, musical chairs, wheelbarrow race, table tennis, swings, slides, and more provided lots of exercise. They also shared their creativity in painting, drawing, making jewelry and other small crafts. Every day the youths practiced the camp theme song, and on our final morning we made a video of their music. The summer camp is but one part of our focus on Belizean youth. The GATE program continues to engage young people in school gardens and good nutrition, and is now a part of all the primary schools in the Toledo District.

Plenty Belize

Children in 48 villages live healthier because of the school gardens, youth gardens at home, school water systems and school lunch programs supported by Plenty Belize’s GATE program. Volunteer cooks at five primary schools learned ways to prepare balanced nutritious meals and soy foods, led by master cook Ignatius Gomier Longville and funded by our friends at A Well Fed World. All district schools were provided a healthy foods cookbook produced by Plenty Belize and the Toledo School Feeding program.

A pilot solar power project in San Jose village provides clean energy to 19 buildings including the school that serves over 200 children via its 6.58 KW solar array.

Fifteen fishing families developed micro businesses to diversify their income and decrease the pressure on fragile marine resources. The families benefitted from eight business training courses, and a mix of grants and loans to start or improve their business operations.

The 20 women members of “Ambitious Women of Punta Gorda” learned food canning and home gardening to begin a small salsa making operation to earn income.

The “Protecting Teenage Mothers” project provided workshops on parenting skills, nutrition education, healthy relationships, conflict resolution domestic violence, and other relevant topics for 22 young women.