Climate Team October 2018 – St Vincent Period February
St Vincent is a beautiful island with some beautiful people. Here, everyone gets happy when they see you and they will do everything to make you happy as well. It’s quite impossible to be sad around them or to not feel comfortable. Since the first day we arrived people have been so generous and actually it is kind of crazy these days to think about how someone can give everything they have without asking for something in return. Our world is full of greed and madness and even if you don’t want to think so, something will cross your life to remind you of it. I don’t think that’s the case with the people from St Vincent. I think they are born connected with nature and with one another. They know that each one of us should treat the others with respect if we also want to be respected. They have warm hearts and colorful minds. Peace, love and smiles that’s what we feel and receive everyday.
Richmond Vale Academy
RVA is an organization that has been working towards a sustainable future for more than 10 years. Together with the community, Richmond Vale tries to create some positive change and find solutions to our current world problems. People around the world keep using and abusing when it comes to our finite resources which is why we are in this alarming state of emergency. We need to stop putting ourselves above nature and start keeping in mind that we are too a part of it and we need to work together towards a sustainable future. Each one of us (RVA members) have one same goal: fight for a better and fair world. And we are actually doing it. The 10 year Climate Compliance Conference is a program that gives hope and power to the people to have easy access to food by planting it, use renewable sources of energy and creates awareness for people to adapt for climate change and its consequences. So, here we can actually feel part of something bigger and step by step we know we are changing people’s lives.
Teaching and Learning from people
Before we came to St Vincent, our idea of the project was to build home gardens and work in the fruit forest. So we were actually prepared to work hard on that. Then, things changed and we had to adapt. Our new project is to teach the community about Climate Change, Trees, Health and Nutrition and Organic Farming. In Denmark, we had the opportunity to study about some of these subjects but one thing is when you are doing it for yourself or as a team, and another thing is when you actually have to transmit all that information to someone. The most important thing is supporting people in the realisation about these elements and the connection between them. I think we are all enjoying it and we are also learning so much not only from ourselves and each other but also from the locals which is amazing. They already know so much and it’s incredible to feel the energy between us all. Plans changed but I’m glad that’s the way things happen here because to be wise is to be flexible.
The Island and the Nature of St Vincent
Before coming to RVA we had done some reading about the local plants, fruit trees and landscape. Never had we the imagination to prepare for the vast luscious guava, soursop, mango, papaya, coconut and starfruit available for us to try and eat. The colors, smells and tastes need to be tried and seen with your own eyes, to which books, articles and descriptions of people who have been here never stand a chance. All the pictures seem like postcards. It’s incredible to be able to hear all the life around, the mountains offer many opportunities for long walks immersed in the green of the forests, there are several waterfalls, beautiful waterfalls. The beaches have dark sand and you can see colorful fish in the sea. We are blessed to enjoy the great spoils of mother nature here.
The way many houses are built, and their sparkling colors. Walking through the villages we meet many locals, especially children, who after a few hesitations approach and talk, they ask questions. One thing that strikes us is the numerous dogs that wander the streets and we do not understand if they have an owner or not. Cows and goats live on the edge of cliffs, stuck into a trunk without having space to even walk or interact between one another. Some of them are able to get loose but it’s quite sad to see them everyday like that. Anyway, we have seen many things I think there is still a lot to discover.
Achievements for the 1st Month:
For one of our first projects as part of the school, we were to go out and teach the communities around St Vincent. We split the lessons so that two of us would present each topic, making sure that each person had two topics each. We compiled the information that we would gather into presentations to give people a visual aid, allowing them to retain the information better. The lessons were overall a success, as people were interested in what we had to say and a few were willing to ask questions and take part in a discussion.
Got to know more about local trees, plants and how they connect between each other
One of the first things we were introduced to upon arriving at RVA was the trees grown in and around the school. The island is almost completely covered in trees, and a major reason given for this was because of the natural disasters that occur around the island. We learned that the specific trees and plants were good for prevent soil erosion that could give way to landslides, which could be a major problem as a lot of people live on hills, and reduce the damage caused by floods. We also got to learn more about the different fruit trees and fruit that were growing, which was especially good since not only was the fruit tasty, but has a lot of benefits.
Got more used to the culture, people and the island itself
St Vincent has a lot of things different from what we are used to, both at home and where we started in Denmark. Thanks to Selly, we had time to go out into the villages and learn more about how people live their lives on the island. We got to talk to a few people, both as part of trying to reach out as part of the school, and as individuals trying to socialize, and eventually would get to see more of what people do; for example, we attended a church service on one Sunday, and saw how the people attending church that day chose to worship their beliefs. Everything here is very interesting and different, and we are getting to see more of that as time goes on
How climate change had affected St Vincent
Seeing the damage done by climate change was essentially something that we could not avoid. Even as we just arrived on the island and were being taken to the school, we saw that some roads and bridges had been damaged by a recent disaster, and that people were still recovering from it. Through talking to people, and learning from Selly, we got to know more about how everything had changed in St Vincent, and how people would adjust to the change. People lost their homes, their income, their farms and still cry about that. It’s not easy to talk about something that completely destroyed your life. A lot of it was upsetting to see or hear about, but it also helps push us towards fighting climate change more, so that more people would not see their lives threatened by the changing world.
Started a project in the fruit forest
Another project that we started in our first month in St Vincent was that we started to learn more about how to maintain the fruit forest. We would take part in activities that would involve clearing up the vines that were growing around the trees, or cutting away leaves that would eventually start to damage other leaves. When we were doing this, we were also being taught more about how the vines and some weeds were invasive species that would prevent the growth of the trees. This was very important to learn, as knowing more
about the plant life and how to maintain it will be very useful for us during our stay, and potentially after.
Plans/Expectations for next month
Hiking the volcano
Even before we came to St Vincent, we were all very enthusiastic about hiking up the volcano, and that enthusiasm is still there. Hiking up a volcano feels like it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we can probably see a lot from the top of the volcano, which makes for both a breathtaking moment of our lives, and an awesome photo opportunity. Plus, we will be hiking up a volcano- not only is that good exercise, but how many people can actually say they have hiked a volcano?
Learn more about organic farming and sustainability
Some students of RVA are building gardens all around the communities for making people realize that we can no longer depend on our global food system to bring the food to us as we are used to. This companies use too much fossil fuels to produce, transport and sell all the food that is full with chemicals that are really toxic for us. So, basically they produce food that we don’t need. We need healthy, nutritious and organic food. We need to know where our food come from and what kind of methods were used to produce it. That’s why the best way is to grow our own food. By knowing how urgent it is we want to know more about how all the plants interact in a garden. How the sun, wind and light affects each one of the crops and how nature can work by itself with us helping but not putting too much effort on it.
Continuing to work with the community
We all came here for a reason, and while those reasons might be very different, I personally came here not only so that I can experience something new, but because I both want to and like to help people, where and when I can. So to come here and help out a bit with the community is a great way for me to do exactly that, and I hope that I can change something here for someone and learn a few new skills while doing it.
Learn more about local food
Each country has its traditions and its typical products. In St vincent there are many types of fruit that in Europe we do not have and some of these are actually cooked in a very nice way. It would be interesting to deep in the culinary traditions of this country also because in the lessons we have prepared for people in the village, we discussed the topic of health and nutrition. By better understanding their eating habits, this topic could be really appropriated.
Visiting some places around the Grenadines
St Vincent and the Grenadines are a group of islands that none of us could say we were ever going to see in our lives, if you could go back in time and ask our younger selves. If St Vincent is this amazing, we can imagine how is on the other islands. We have a lot of options and a even with a lot of things in our mind this will be something we will do for sure. People at home would tell me that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that they wished that they could be in my shoes to visit the Caribbean. So with that in mind, why waste it? We should take the opportunity to see as much as we can.
Learning about the topics that we had to give lessons about
We had some information pertaining to some of the topics we would teach about, but the information that we had would pertain to specific environments, climes and life. What could we teach that people in St Vincent did not already know? Sure, our knowledge of climate change was pretty expansive, but other things like trees and organic farming were things that some of us were just introduced to. Even so, we have and are finding a way to learn more about where we are and what we have seen, and, personally, I’m happy to not only learn more on my own, but to hear more opinions and questions that push me to learn more and ask more questions myself.
Involve the community more into this kind of subjects
The people at St vincent are nice, seeing their interest in our lessons made us realize that they need to be encouraged to act in the right way for the environment. They need to become aware of the fact that we all have a role in acting for cope with climate change. Also, people are not aware of how bad can be the food that they eat. This all comes together when we talk about change and how they can do it towards a healthy lifestyle and a more sustainable life. The challenge is to make them realize all of these little connections that make huge differences.
Getting used to the tropical climate
Coming from the freezing North dealing with the climate has been a real challenge. When summer’s in my country hit 30 degrees, which happen two or three days per year, people concentrate a lot less on work and a lot more on enjoying the climate. It is not entirely different here, but concentrating on work and studies has become a lot more challenging. It’s almost against my wiring to stay inside on a sunny day. However, work in the garden has become a lot more enjoyable likewise.
Waiting, waiting and waiting a little more
In St Vincent people are very calm and patience. The question “What time we meet?” is a very subjective one. Some may say the exact time but they will only be at the place 30 min, 1h later or even 1h before time who knows. Others may just say “in the morning” or “in the evening” or even “before lunch” but the conclusion is that we always have to wait for something to happen. On the opposite side, in Denmark schedules are done for people to respect them and not be late. Here, there’s a different type of mentality which I really love. People don’t really get mad if you are late. They believe you are late because you had to do something specific in that time and you had to pass through that experience. The best thing is that people don’t do things in a hurry, they have time and with or without a predefined schedule things get done.
Getting used to the local culture
Here people talk, interact and live with open hearts. Away from the culture we are used to and closer to the villages. This has opened up for us a new reality of life. Time seems to run a different pace here. It’s fine to be late for meetings and nothing really is set in stone or layed out before us. Here I have gotten used to the notion of waiting and patience. Here we wait a lot. On meetings, people, arrangements. This reality might sound frustrating at first, but we just got used to a slower pace of live. You start to talk to people around you more. Since there is no wifi, I rarely use my phone. One article I read mentioned that life and building strong relationships happens in these small spaces of life. I start to feel I have time since a long time.
This is a different way of life.