It started to rain heavily. Nevertheless, the children came. Big, grey clouds hovered over the beautiful lime green hills overlooking our yard. Despite the rain, the community’s children came happy. They walked up to Profugo’s Center of Development (COD) with big smiles unbothered by the wet mud stuck to their shoes. It was their first Children’s Club meeting after its inauguration and they also knew Jenny, our director had come from the US with her children, to be part of their day’ event. The children were excited and we had planned a day outdoors; our first day in the creation of the Profugo’s Children Garden. Tomato, okra, chilies, spinach, pumpkin and many other seeds were classified and ready for their respective group of little children’s hands to plant them in our nursery.
The rains took us by surprise. We all believed this year’s long, rainy season was over! But the rains came back for a last hurrah, forcing the Profugo team to devise a creative change of plans. We decided to move the nursery from up the hill, down to our terrace. If the children could not come to the garden, we would somehow make the garden come to them. The grow bags were carried to our terrace and filled with nice dry soil, collected seconds before the rains. Bilingual English and Malayalam tags were made for each respective vegetable with the drawing of their mature plant for each child to see and color. The tags were placed next to the grow bags safely dry and waiting for the kids under our terrace. Our terrace was filled with 60 children of all ages.
Aneesh, our program manager, who spoke to them about the importance of understanding their natural environment. Among many things, he spoke of how water and vegetables free of chemicals, will help them grow healthy. Children were divided into groups; they sifted through the soil in the bags, made personalized colored plant tags and planted the veggies. Anu, our newest field fellow, and I conducted a group discussion with the kids who shared ideas for looking after their new vegetable plants. They sang to the Sesame Street music video, a Profugo favorite, “We are all earthlings”. As the plants grow, this Profugo Children’s vegetable garden will be used by our field fellows to test organic fertilizers and other agro-ecological techniques. This garden activity is a good opportunity for our community children to work together. They will take ownership of a project that will help them learn some interesting organic ways to grow foods and practice their English skills, all while having fun.