Because of the lockdown, we had the opportunity to re-evaluate and direct our energies towards developing new strategies and projects to best support the Monte Chingolo community in a sustainable manner. Since we began to collaborate with Fundación Arché almost five years ago, we have been able to consolidate our resources, expand our reach, and increase our impact. We have put our heads together to discuss the relevant issues and complications of the current situation and brainstorm ideas for moving forward.
Up until halfway through March, we were facilitating Food for Thought as normal. We have our own specific style of education that focusses on the development of Physically Healthy, Curious, Confident, Reflective, and Resilient little humans. Our vision is long term sustainability, as we believe in supporting children in improving their wellbeing, in becoming inquisitive learners and developing their ability to make good decisions for themselves and those around them. Seeing as our ability to do this got stopped in its tracks by COVID, we began to think in terms of a different type of sustainability.
Still today, half a century later, the work of Deci and Ryan (Self-Determination Theory) is relevant. As humans, we become motivated when we have a sense of Autonomy and Competence, and strong social connections and Relationships. Have a look at your kid/s. They thrive when they are in an environment where these three elements are present. Supporting the growth of self-determined individuals is also a catalyst in the evolution of healthy and sustainable communities.
In adults, when those elements are present in our environment, we grow with dignity. I am generalising massively but what so often happens in lower-income environments is that the self-worth of individuals, families, and communities diminishes over time. Through the lack of support and respect from local governments, the growing gap between rich and poor, the lack of access to health services and real education (the list goes on), people over many generations feel less and less connected with the wider community and lose an individual and communal sense of confidence, self-respect, and dignity. Add all of the implications of what the current environment of the coronavirus brings and the outlook is bleak!
So, with all of that in mind, we are planning and implementing new projects and ideas that move towards what we see as a sustainable future in this current context. We have provided and are providing food packages for those families who need direct support. This not a long-term strategy but important to sustain those families who don’t currently have incomings. It also helps us grow and maintain the relationship that we have with the community.
Producing food on site is a long-term strategy that aligns with our education values and sustainability goals. Our constantly-growing (pun intended) garden space can not only produce healthy organic produce for children and their families but also become a key education tool for the future. The women’s cooking and baking business, Justa, and the natural cosmetics business, Flores de Calendula, are projects looking at all aspects of running a small business. It also provides a wage for the local ladies involved in this time of need. We are also planning a sourdough bread business that will be supporting Food for Thought economically.
I believe that the best education comes in the form of an example. Here comes my big final sentence: Our hope is to continue growing as an education center with examples of sustainable projects, being executed by community members within the space, and this will demonstrate to all local people that positive community development is possible even within the current circumstances of today’s world.