During our food trip last week, we saw an example feedlot and slaughterhouse at UC Davis. It was very interesting to get to hear a more conventional view on beef production. Here at Woolman we get a pretty bias opinion on most things and the teachers are the first to admit it. Gerry, the man who showed us around the feedlot, really made his methods seem logical. I don’t necessarily agree with them but to meet the beef demand his methods seem reasonable. Gerry said his main job is keeping the cows happy, because when they are happy, they get fat and he gets more money. When we told him we were concerned about medicine residue in the meat. He asked what would you like to cure you when you are sick? Would you like to take antibiotics, that are proven to work, or some garlic oil? Now I personally have never gotten a shot or taken antibiotics, but, I have never been sick enough to need them, but I can see the logic behind what he said. I wonder what that says about my diet? Gerry said that even the stress of being moved to the feedlot can make cows sick. We have been reading in the Omnivores Dilemma about Polyface Farm, where cows are raised entirely grass fed until slaughter. They don’t use anti-biotics and I got the impression that their cows don’t get sick often. Is that because of their environment? If you feed cows corn on feedlots it requires massive amounts of fossil fuels and it could be argued that those methods are not very humane. If you feed cows only grass, it can be more sustainable, healthier for people and cows, and cheaper in the long run. Here at Woolman, we sometimes neglect to consider opposing views; talking to Gerry gave me insight on another perspective, regarding meat production.
Organic: a word that constantly gets tossed about these days as our products increasingly claim their ground-shaking role in this modern day fad. To some extent we have been throwing about the word “organic” with the same fervor in our environmental science class. What we found during one of our classes didn’t exactly shock us…we had no idea what the word really meant. As it turns out, no one does. Everyone has their own definition with it’s own connotations of the word “organic”.
So we embarked on a journey to find the meaning of this mysterious word that has somehow plastered itself all over our grocery store labels and commercials. After a week of traveling all over the California bay area, I found one thing: Organic means pricey. Every farm or program we went to, someone would always ask for a definition of the word “organic”. Each answer was slightly different—perhaps one emphasized the local aspect of being organic, while another swore “local” is an outdated concept in this globalized world and the meaning really lies in growing food naturally.
The one thing I found constant was how expensive organic food is. Just by having the word printed somewhere on the product, the price tag gets boosted considerably. Which got me thinking…with the high quality food so expensive, only a select few can reap the benefits of consuming healthy, yet delicious food. Where is the food security in that? How can organic food be sustainable when you have to be financially stable enough to afford it? The problem with processed food/fast-food is that many people believe it is more financially sustainable to feed a family of four for around $20 at McDonalds than to spend moremoney on a feworganic carrots and apples. I might be wrong, but it seems there is a problem with food security in our own country. We might start to solve it by first looking at the meaning of the word “organic”.
Imagine you're walking through an archway of roses. They're spilling over, covering both sides so you wander through a flower cavern. You come out on the other side and the sun is in full brilliance, shining its rays on rows of onion, garlic, kale, and countless flowers of numerous colors. The rows are incredibly neat, with no weeds, contrary to the outskirts of the site which bulge with wilderness. Blackberry bushes that hug the tall willow trees, all leaning towards the human made garden. You look up and there’s a hill with some mud colored houses. A few children are playing on the hillside, running around and laughing. Is this place real?
This would be the Occidental Arts and Ecology center. To me it seemed like a haven, an ideal community. It is about an hour out of a large metropolis, the bay area, but the people living there have been working on this community for twenty years, to make it a place were people are connected with nature and their neighbors. It is an intentional community that is much like Woolman; they have a large garden, a few ponds, chores that community members need to do every week, shackled cabins or houses, and a beautiful property. Unlike Woolman, giant perennials were in full bloom during our visit. They also choose to use permaculture as their method of farming. Permaculture is an unique designing method that helps farmers mimic nature. They don’t till, they don't weed, and they let the forest grows where it wants. I really found the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center one of my favorite places that we visited on our food service trip.
The week long Food Intensive Trip was not only eye opening on food, but also it gave me a sense of relief, to know if I do purchase produce, I know exactly where it is coming from. Our trip started bright and early Monday morning, spending an entire day at UC Davis. We visited places such as the Meat Lab, Feed Lot and Seed lab,even picking fresh strawberries at the student garden. The meat lab and feed lot definitely made an impact on how much meat I consume and where my meat comes from. Seeing the cows at the UC Davis feed lot made me nauseous, as the cows sat in their waste and ate corn and grain, while they unbearably got fattened up to later be dinner on someone's plate. As the next day approached, we went on a belly tour to candy company Jelly Belly, home to the famous jelly beans, and Full Belly Farm, which is an organic farm, whose produce are in stores such as Safeway, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. We even helped them out by packing their CSA boxes which contained fresh strawberries, broccoli, asparagus, green garlic and so much other tasty organic produce. That Wednesday, we ventured off to Veritable Vegetable which is an organization that buys from organic farmers, and makes sure the farmers get paid a good amount. They then sell to restaurants, stores and companies around the US. It was really amazing to see Full Belly produce at Veritable Vegetable, because as we arrived to Full Belly, there was a Veritable Vegetable truck pulling out. The entire process of fresh, healthy food amazes me. The following day, we spent almost the entire morning at Jacobs Farm, where they specialize in growing organic herbs and edible flowers. Following Jacob's Herb farm, we went to a local farmers market where we each bought dinner, and connected with local farmers in the Santa Cruz area. The following day, we were given an assignment to each create a dish for dinner. The entire group went to the Berkeley Bowl, which is an organic food store that sells local food in the Berkeley/Oakland area. My teammate and I decided to create a Caribbean inspired fruit salad, containing lots of mangoes, pineapples,kiwi, bananas, and tomatoes.
This trip has not only taught me how much work it takes into growing food, but now, I am a lot more aware of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in non organic food, the many pesticides that are not only killing the plant, but also killing us, and the health risk your meat may have due to the over feeding, and many drugs they are given. I do not have any clue as to what the future aquiculture has in store, but I am glad to see farmers making healthy food which in turns benefits everyone who eats it. When I go back home to NYC, the only way I can convince my family and peers, are by showing them statics on how bad non organic food is for you, and how you make not realize it, but your spending money to slowly kill yourself.
Response: Food and Agriculture
Noun: Any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plant absorbs, in order to maintain life and growth.
Here it says food is a nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or plants absorb in order to maintain life and growth. It does not say it has to be healthy, it does not say it has to be organic, it does not say it comes from a farm, it does not say people shouldn’t eat inhumane slaughtered animals. It also does not say you will be diagnosed with heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.
I still don’t get this whole food system, why is it that people become vegetarians? Is it that they don’t like meat? They don’t like the process in which it is brought to their plates? They don’t like how the animals lived before they were slaughtered? They’re taking on their family’s tradition? What is it?
I love me some meat. On this trip I felt as though it was trying to inform us that eating meat is a bad thing. Or that if you eat meat, make sure it lives a humane lifestyle. To me, I really don’t care, it’s not going to change my decision one way or the other. I was brought up on grocery store and meat market meat. That is what keeps me growing and alive.
Honestly, I am not interested in food and agriculture. I know all I need to know about it for me to make the same decisions I been making in my food choice. Although it was interesting to know how urban gardens work, the big farm wasn’t that interesting. I love the fact that urban gardens focus on feeding low income families and schools. I love that vision.
I feel if I was ever to go into the field of food and agriculture, I would want to have my own land planting and growing food for my community. I think it’s a good way to start off.
Last week, on the Food Intensive, we went to Jacobs Herb Farm. It is a well-established, commercial, organic herb farm near Santa Clara, California. We toured around under the relentless sun: sampling sorrel, peppermint, calendula, an assortment of edible flowers, and even some stinging nettle. About halfway through the tour we came across two cramped rows of ancient rosemary bushes. Our guide, Emily, invited us to try and make our way through the path between the rows. While crawling through the fragrant tunnel of herbs, I felt like Harry Potter, running through the maze in the Tri-wizard Tournament of Book 4. The trip down the tunnel turned out to be slightly longer and more cramped than anyone expected. But, it did prove to me the rosemary is an amazing plant.
Unlike many of the other herbs that make the food we eat so delicious, rosemary is a perennial evergreen. This translates into: I require no work to grow… at all. Stick a cutting in the ground and the herb will flourish. If it’s so easy to grow, why do we buy rosemary? Spending five dollars on the start of a rosemary plant that will last you more than one hundred years seems more logical than buying a tiny clamshell package of Jacobs Herb Farm rosemary. So, I have a small challenge for all the readers of the Woolman Blog. Grow your own rosemary! It may just be the easiest plant you will ever grow – and the tastiest.
Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful women around the world giving life and love to the next generation!
I found this article this morning which reminded me of something that I had heard years ago, Mother's Day started as an anti-war holiday. Certainly not how it is represented today.
Read on to be inspired by the women who came together to speak out against war!
This article was originally in "The Tyee" Click here to read the full article and see the comments: http://thetyee.ca/Life/2011/05/06/MothersDayRadicalRoots/
Mother's Day's Radical Roots
The mom who started it all worked for peace and community activism, saying a firm no to commercialization.
"We will not have great questions decided
by irrelevant agencies
Our husbands shall not come to us,
reeking with carnage, for caresses and
Our sons shall not be taken from us to
All that we have been able to teach them
of charity, mercy and patience.
We women of one country will be too
tender of those of another
To allow our sons to be trained to injure
From the bosom of the devastated earth
a voice goes up with our own.
It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of
murder is not the balance of justice."
(from Julia Ward Howe's Mother’s Day Proclamation, 1870)
Good luck finding a greeting card containing those historic lines composed by one of the notable women who set the stage for the establishment of Mother's Day over 100 years ago. In contrast to the celebrations related to mother goddesses conducted by Ancient Greeks and Romans thousands of years ago, the North American holiday has civic and pacifist roots. Julia Ward Howe, abolitionist, suffragist, poet and author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, wrote her Mother's Day Proclamation, calling for an International Mother's Day to promote international peace in response to the horrors of the American Civil War and Franco-Prussian War. In 1873, several women's groups held celebrations on June 2 to observe Howe's Mother's Day for Peace, which endured for a few years with her funding in over a dozen U.S. cities, and for a decade in Howe's hometown of Boston, despite the lack of official national recognition.
The notion of "Mother's Day" also had its origins in the community activism of Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis in West Virginia. In 1858, the 26-year-old mother organized women in her area to form "Mothers' Day Work Clubs" to deal with poor health and sanitation conditions in her town of Webster and surrounding neighbourhoods in an effort combat high infant mortality rates. (Only four of Jarvis's dozen children survived into adulthood.) The clubs coordinated care for families whose mothers had tuberculosis, provided medicine for the poor, and conducted milk and food inspections.
When Jarvis's area of Taylor County was occupied by armed camps of both Union and Confederate soldiers due its location near a strategic railroad terminus, the Mothers' Day Work Clubs provided essential nursing care to soldiers on both sides when epidemics of typhoid and measles broke out, as well as medicine, clothing and food.
In 1868, after the war, Jarvis arranged a momentous "Mothers' Friendship Day" at a local courthouse, inviting a large gathering of soldiers and their families from both sides to overcome their deep-seated enmity and come together in peace. The profoundly moving and emotionally charged event was highly successful in healing a divided community, and continued as an annual celebration for several years.
'Matchless service to humanity'
After Ann Reeves Jarvis's death in 1905, one of her daughters, Anna Jarvis, campaigned and lobbied for years to fulfill her mother's wish for the establishment of an official holiday to honour mothers. She recalled her mother stating a hope that "someone, sometime will found a memorial mother's day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life." Although Mother's Day was celebrated in most U.S, states and Canada and Mexico by 1909 as a result of Jarvis's efforts, it was not until 1914 that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson finally declared Mother's Day an official national holiday in 1914. Official recognition followed in Canada a year later.
In the 1920s, Jarvis switched course, withdrawing her support for the holiday as the florist industry and other businesses began to capitalize on the potential for sales. She initiated lawsuits, and was even arrested for creating a public disturbance in her attempts to prevent the commercialization of the holiday. Jarvis had intended that individuals honour their mothers through simple, heartfelt gestures, such as the gift of a single white carnation and a handwritten note: "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit," she said, denouncing the use of greeting cards as "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write."
She and her sister spent the rest of their lives and inheritance trying in vain to repeal Mother's Day. Impoverished, blind and partially deaf, Jarvis died in 1948 at the age of 84 in a care facility.
The shift of the underlying basis for holiday from activist to consumerist probably was a result of the official holiday's emphasis on the individual mother's role within the private realm of the home and family, as opposed to the role of women in the public realm to improve their communities. As noted by others, the subtle but significant relocation of the apostrophe from "mothers'" to "mother's" helped to sap the holiday of its symbolic potential to commemorate women's collective efforts to promote peace.
No mother is a cliché
For many reasons, it might have been easier for me to celebrate a commemoration of women's pacifism and civic contributions while I was growing up. When I was in my teens and 20s, I found Mother's Day particularly difficult. The social expectations around the holiday seemed to revolve around honouring a type of Leave it to Beaver domestic goddess. I could never find a card that could even start to describe the complex feelings I had about my complex mother. We had a challenging relationship. Even though I deeply respected and admired her devotion to medicine, her hard work and many talents in making music and art, I mostly tried to stay out of her way, leery of her sudden rages and tirades. Even back then, I realized she was parenting as best as she could with no parenting role models herself. During her childhood, her own mother had disliked her for being a daughter and had little to do with her upbringing. And my maternal grandmother in turn had been sold as a young girl by my great-grandmother, her mother. My class-conscious paternal grandmother was distant and disapproving.
As a result, I grew up somewhat alienated from the inherent glorification and idealization of motherhood embodied in Mother's Day, forced to profess sentiments I didn't necessarily feel, while being riddled with guilt for not feeling them.
When I became a mother myself, I questioned gender stereotypes and the unequal division of domestic duties the same way my own mother did, but gained a deeper understanding of the significance, challenges and pleasures of parenthood from the years of sleepless nights to the delights of receiving another bouquet of freshly plucked dandelions. Perhaps Anna Jarvis was right that greeting cards could never suffice: no parent can be reduced to a few cliché-ridden stanzas in a store-bought card.
The global mom
The opportunity to celebrate women's social and political achievements can still celebrated through International Women's Day on March 8, a U.N.-designated holiday with its roots in the socialist and labour movements at the turn of the 1900's to promote equal rights for women. Also, women's essential role in the social cohesion and cultural survival of communities has been acknowledged by agencies and institutions around the world.
One important example is Stephen Lewis Foundation's highly successful grandmothers' campaign, which provides funding to grassroots organizations that support grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa, in recognition of the crucial role that they play as caregivers and advocates for the sizeable number of children orphaned as a result of the AIDS pandemic. The foundation recognizes that African grandmothers are "...community experts and agents of change [who] nurture, feed and put their grandchildren into school. They work to educate their grandchildren about HIV prevention care and treatment, tend to the sick in their communities, help the recently bereaved, set up support groups, harvest the crops, and advocate for women's rights."
So over the next few days, as you are struggling to find an appropriate card amongst the pink and lavender floral depictions and saccharine rhymes in your local store's greeting card aisle, or on the phone hunting for a restaurant that still has a table free for Mother's Day brunch, or possibly grieving or even trying to forget the mother you had, or -- more happily -- being feted yourself in small or large ways for your sacrifices as a parent, it might be worth remembering the historical origins of the celebration, and taking a moment to consider those rare but essential gestures, small or large, private or public, that any of us can make which pave the way for reconciliation and peace.
Congratulations to Ruthie Hawley! She and a couple of friends recently placed 2nd at a statewide (Washington) documentary contest on the subject of diplomacy. Now they are headed to Nationals in Washington D.C.! The topic of the 10 minute video is the "Bracero" guestworker program and features photos straight from her own semester's trip to Mexico. Ruthie wrote to Woolman to say:
"Thank you so much for all the support and enlightening me about issues at the border, and in general the immigration debate. We may have never chosen this project without my experience in Global Issues!"
She continued on with more good news about younger studentsat her school who used her Global Issues term paper for their own research!
...OH! and a group of 8th graders who did a performance about Rachel Carson at State totally cited my YAP [Youth as Peacebuilders] paper and worked in the conflict over the use of DDT in Uganda in their presentation!! I was sitting in the audience watching it and freaked out I was so happy."Good luck at Nationals, Ruthie!
Follow this link to the documentary: http://youtu.be/barjx0YELjM
Last Sunday was May Day, a day that people all over the world use to march in solidarity for international worker's rights.
In the United States in particular, people use it as an opportunity to speak up about our immigration system: both what we want to see and what we feel is failing. Of course, these two topics are so intricately connected. How can we talk about the problems of having 11 million undocumented people in our country without looking at the reasons that they are migrating? When you do, as we do in our Mexico Unit, you see that while the issue is as complicated as any, there have been some very clear consequences of the trade policies that the United States have signed with Mexico. Policies which have forced rural Mexican farmers off their lands and into cities that could not support them. Policies which have created "maquila" factories where workers are often suffering poor conditions, low wages, and inability to unionize. Many forces have contributed to the rising numbers of people moving north into the U.S., but acknowledging these links will be essential if we are to come up with any long lasting solutions.
The night before I took a group of concerned students to the rally in Sacramento I sat looking at my markers and blank poster sign.
What was it in my heart that I wanted to express? Which aspect of this mess of economics and migration made me the most upset?
I saw the rally as an opportunity to stand in the company of a diverse group of people with a common goal. I also saw it as the opportunity to make some noise and let America or Sacramento or at least that neighborhood know that I was ashamed of my country's connections to these human rights abuses. I came up with at least a dozen different ideas ranging from calling for sweatshop free supply chains to ending NAFTA to raising awareness about modern day slavery in the U.S.. The following pictures show what I ended up with---look closely, I wrote too many words. Next time I'll come up with a catchy slogan instead :) The next morning when the 4 students that came with me piled into the car, I was inspired all over again by their own signs. It is such a rewarding part of life to have a job that keeps me surrounded by fiery and compassionate young people!
Si, se puede! Yes, we can!
Hanaa made a collage to represent diversity in the U.S.
Prior to Woolman, I was asked again and again what I would be doing after I graduated High School. I was so grateful to have had an answer to give them.
“I’m going to the Woolman Semester!”
“The Woman Semester?” They would ask, because no matter how hard I tried to pronounce the “L” in Woolman, they could never hear me.
“No, the Woollllman Semester. It’s a semester program in Northern California that has classes based on Peace, Social Justice, and Sustainability.”
“Oh, that sounds cool.” And that was usually it.
I remember imagining myself biking to Nevada City on rolling hills, and perhaps babysitting for the neighbors. I would practice my bass, and learn French. I would go to the library, and read all those books I’ve been meaning to. Of course I had no time for any of this.
No, my time at the Woolman Semester was spent doing activities I could never have predicted. If I combined all of those events into one single event, it would be something like this:
...rapping Harry Potter while hiking on a giant garden map in the Salvation Army as I peel mangoes and play guitar but oh wait it’s raining and my feet are cold and soaked, but I have to sit still because I’m modeling for drawing but all I really want to do is pour goddess dressing on everything and go to sleep but I can’t because I have to write that paper and finish that project and work on my dreads and call back home, so I make some coffee and stay up all night, but my computer decides that its life is not worth living and no matter how much I try to persuade it the internet never works, so I go for a walk with Banjo and get lost on deer trails, and end up at the Crystal tree, and leave my soul, but I don’t have enough copies for each branch so I draw a picture with Althea and lie in the grass and watch a baby calf stand for the first time, as I make a card for the new cow intern, and then the bell rings and it’s time for dinner and I don’t understand how they managed to make the best meal everagain, and I need to finish that reading but I have dish crew so I scrub pots and pans and jars, and wonder if the cheesy scones were worth the burnt cheese stuck to the tray, so I walk to my cabin and run into a deer, and then it’s finally check in and I go to sleep and spend the next few hours dreaming of Woolman.
So, that may have been more than one event, but you get the picture. Woolman is a magic wonderful land filled with the loveliest of people. You really don’t need to leave, because everything you need is right there. Got a headache? Just go talk to Kai the medicine man. He’ll prescribe you an herbal concoction as he virtually saves the world from Goombas and Wario and Bowser. Wondering which God or Goddess would be best to care for your chickens? I ask myself that every day. But instead of asking me, you ask Megan, who would give you a ridiculously elaborate response describing exactly what offering to leave out, and the best ways of teaching your chickens to listen to their new caretaker. Having trouble relaxing? Well look no further than Sage, who will melt your heart with her harp strings. Looking to cast just the right actor for your newest hit? Ask Patricia to stand in on the tryouts! She’ll tell you exactly if their looks are movie worthy or not. Want to know if your movie was a hit? Ask Dennis, the behind the scenes movie connoisseur. He might even make you a movie poster if he feels so inclined. Is that bully down the block giving you trouble? After Keith shows him his martial arts skillz he won’t bother you again. Having trouble sleeping are you? Anna will give you her secret as to how she can sleep through anything! She might even throw in a witty antic dote for a nominal fee. What’s that? You’re hungry? Aren’t you lucky, as Max has just made a cheesecake! Wondering which actress it was that you saw on TV last week? Don’t ask Marijke, she won’t know. Ask her instead which kind of tree it was that you saw last week. Find yourself in a lawsuit? Hire Annabelle to be your lawyer. Her debating skills are so good she could convince a penguin that it could fly. Are you getting sick of everyone’s sarcastic answers to your questions? Try asking Marie a question! I guarantee you her answer will be cheerful and honest and not have one drop of sarcasm in it.
In all possibly nonexistent seriousness, Woolman has been a life changer for me. I have grown so much more aware of the world around me, have boosted my self-confidence, and am leaving with many long lasting friendships. Woolman is an overwhelmingly supportive community that you want to cling on to for life, but you can’t because you have to let go and go out and spread newfound enlightenment. I’ve loved my time here deeply, and I’m sure gonna miss it. Thank you.
Fall 2010 Students and Interns simultaneously singing and crying after the graduation ceremony
"Home is whenever I'm with you..."
A line is drawn in the sand, reinforced with history.
A history of a people oppressed.
Los dioses del primer mundo, the gods of the first world, exploit the people of this nation.
As I walk closer to the wall, I realize the outrageous beauty that surrounds me.
The mountains stand tall with integrity and natural superiority.
I see a powerful beauty afoot in the desert.
In color and joy and anger and love, power is brewing with potential.
In the silence of a moment or the fury of a sentence, power finds purpose.
In the creases of these mountains, power stumbles into inspiration.
In opposition to oppression, power has a conversation with compassion.
In the heart of justice, power begins to beat in a rhythmic wondering.
I begin to hear the mountains sing in melodic whisperings.
I draw a line on a paper to symbolize barriers of the personal and political.
Smearing the line as an act of protest, I realize the power of the people.
Of "we the people," of the population of concerned patrons, of every person.
I become a voice of reason to end division.
I stand up in fierce and fiery revolution.
I proclaim a newly defined position.
This line in the sand is drawn in struggle and suffering.
Seperating and dividing two cultures that are part of the other.
As a question is to an answer or a wonder to a revelation.
I realize the beauty of these mountains against the silhouette of this wall.
In the counterfeited world of artistic representation, the wall falls in surrender.
Happy Earth Day!
Campus is quiet on this cloudy, but serene Earth Day as all the students are out on break until Monday. I thought I would share this TED Talk video by one of our favorite activists, Van Jones. It is called "The Economic Injustice of Plastic" and does an amazing job of demonstrating the interconnectedness of environmental, social, and economic issues---which is certainly one of the driving forces of our Woolman curriculum. Enjoy!
At the Maquila (for making archery arrow feathers) Spring 2010
"The unit that I found very intense is the Mexico unit. This really motivated me to do something to help prevent deaths in the border because people are migrating to try and get a better job to help their families survive. I would like to go back to Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico and volunteer at the DouglaPrieta Trabajan Permaculture center and help Jose with the projects he is trying to accomplish around the area. I would especially love to go volunteer at the Agua Para La Vida with the CRREDA center, I really like how they take water to the desert for people that are trying to cross the border. I will now take more action than ever before in any way possible, from protesting to writing emails, to making phone calls, to volunteering, and much more in order to make a change around the world."
At Dougla Prieta Trabaja--a community empowerment and permaculture center in Agua Prieta, Mexico--Spring 2010
Emily, Rachel, Karina, and Jordan taking a whiff of freshly roasted coffee beans at Cafe Justo--a fair trade coffee cooperative that we visit in Mexico
"The Mexico trip greatly increased my global awareness. Being there, in the heart of a place plagued with struggle and strife allowed me to witness first-hand what we had read about and discussed before going. Experiencing it by seeing and talking to migrants (and others) who are directly affected by border issues really connected me to the issue and gave me a deeper understanding of what people have to go through to get to the United States. This will deeply benefit my ability to think globally because I can share my experience with others when conversations of border issues and undocumented immigrants come up. After visiting Mexico, the issue has become so important to me that I strongly feel the need to share the stories of the people that I met with others back home. Locally, I can reach out to help others understand the fundamental flaws of our border "security" and hopefully raise support for immigrants within the community."
–Jordan Smith, Spring 2010
The following is a piece that I wrote after the Spring 2010 Mexico trip. The photos were taken last week during this semester's adventure
I remember sitting with goose-bumps on my arms in a circle of students, teachers, and interns in the Frontera de Cristo community center in Agua Prieta, Mexico. If there was a dry cheek, I couldn't see through my own welled up eyes to spot it. We were taking time to reflect upon the day, as we did each day of our field trip. The day I am recalling was particularly intense. The group and I had just completed the weekly prayer vigil with Douglas, Arizona community members. The ritual begins with the participants meeting in a lot, 5 blocks down from the border crossing on the highway in Arizona that leads into Mexico. Those who wish to carry a wooden cross are given as many as they can hold. Most of the crosses bear the name, date of birth and date of death of a person that has perished in the desert while attempting to cross into the U.S. It isn't rare to hold one that simply states "No Identificado," representing the untold numbers of nameless victims. As the group of Americans and Mexican-Americans progress street-side towards the border, the participant in the front of the line pauses to hold the cross out towards traffic and shouts the name of the deceased person. The rest of the group responds in chorus: "PRESENTE!" To me, the reply acknowledges the fact that although these migrants, no, human beings, may have perished alone in the desert; they live on in the hearts of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives and husbands that were left behind. To me, it is more than a prayer vigil; it is an act of protest, a visual demonstration of what the majority of Americans choose to ignore. According to immigration experts and the Mexican government, up to 500 people die each year attempting to cross into the United States. It saddens and astonishes me that so few Americans are aware of this devastating crisis.
The Woolman Semester posters lure youth to our program with slogans such as "Question Assumptions," “Understand Your Viewpoint,” and "Act Upon Your Beliefs." However, at the very core of our educational theory is the idea that we also live what we learn. This pedagogy is manifested in the beginning of the semester when the students finish their "Food Systems" unit and then spend five days traveling around California visiting a factory farm, organic farms, a GMO lab, a community garden, and a slaughter house! We gain living examples of the Structural Violence that is explored in the Peace Studies class, by participating in service projects ranging from building houses with low income families to gleaning fruit trees to donate to food banks. Yet, as the Global Issues teacher and an avid world traveler, I believe that our trip to Agua Prieta, Mexico is the most transformational experience of the semester.
Creating curriculum from scratch is the most intense aspect of my job, perhaps its greatest boon and bane. I am very conscious of the power of my decision making when choosing what to bring in and leave out of my classroom. The Mexico Unit is the third after Global Citizenship and Globalization. I open the unit with a chapter from the beloved Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States," exploring the early days of U.S./Mexico relations. I have found the transition to be seamless when we move from studying the effects of Globalization on economic and cultural systems to the positive and negative consequences of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Exploring NAFTA exposes us to such issues as Maquilas (the sweatshop-like factories in the free trade zone at the border), the femicide in Ciudad Juarez (repeated homicides focused on women leaving their Maquila jobs at night), and the Zapatista indigenous revolution. Finally, we explore the immigration debate using current articles from various politicians and activists, as well as recent proposals and changes in immigration policy. In examining the array of perspectives, I ask the students to try and see where each standpoint is coming from: what is each group afraid of? What do they hope for? What type of solution could meet the needs of the various parties involved in this conflict? And ultimately, where do you stand?
Filling Water Tanks with the humanitarian organization: "Water for Life"
“Living what we learn” starts immediately upon departing our home in Nevada City, California. The 2 day trip to the Arizona border brings many of the Environmental Science topics that the students have been studying to light. Passing factory farm after factory farm always brings critical analysis, as well as imaginary plans to free the poor cows and bring them back to our pastures where they would be named and treated like family. Another example of experiencing Woolman curriculum outside of the classroom is the evidence of California’s troubled water system in the form of billboards stating “no water, no food,” the canals, and dams. But truly, I could not have been more pleased with the way in which the Frontera de Cristo Border Immersion Program touches upon nearly every subject I had chosen for my unit.
Frontera de Cristo, a Presbyterian Bi-national Ministry, describes the experience as “a wonderful way to gain a deeper understanding of the economic, political, and spiritual connections that we have across borders” (www.fronteradecristo.org).These connections are made weeklong through the rich activities arranged by the organization. A visit to a local Maquila, where women process materials which end as the feathers for the tops of archery arrows, is filled with a chemical stench that stays with the youth long after they leave the factory. The task of grocery shopping on a desperately low Maquila salary affects the students deeply as they are forced to limit their meal options for the following two days to dried beans and rice and factor in such extras as rent and school uniforms for their hypothetical children. Traveling across the border to events on both sides allows us to examine our American privileges as we smoothly coast through immigration and are rarely questioned by border patrol.
Spring 2011 Students, Interns, and Teachers with the Chief of Police for Douglas, AZ
For three nights in the week, a portion of our group visits the Migrant Resource Center (MRC). The MRC is located just over the border, conveniently placed so that migrants who are released from immigration detention pass by on their way into the town of Agua Prieta. The volunteers that work inside provide water, food, clothing, phone calls, and assist migrants in finding low cost transportation back to their homes in Mexico. Another service they provide is the recording of abuse within the detention facility. Spending time at the center is one of the most impactful experiences of the trip. It is difficult to describe the emotional atmosphere in the tiny room where men, women and children sit to rest before deciding their next move (which is often to attempt another border crossing). Anguish and misery is what I expected. However, the feeling in there is much more like stoic determination. Each semester when I visited the MRC, I was amazed at how welcoming the migrants were to sharing their stories with us. One man was attempting to meet his wife and children who had been living in Tucson for 6 years. A teenager was headed to New York City where he had family waiting with a construction job for him. His plan was to send the money back to feed his 3 children. Another man was eagerly searching each group of recently released migrants to find his brothers with whom he had been traveling. One night, a woman was crying, pleading with the volunteers to go to the desert to find a young mother and child that had been separated from her group when they were taken by the border patrol. She remembered that they ran down a dry river bed to hide, but did not have enough warm clothes or water to safely continue the journey. The volunteers wrote down the description of the mother and child (the woman present did not know their names), but could only respond by saying that the border patrol were already searching for them, that is their job.
Equally impressive is the experience of the border crossing simulation. Members of the activist group, “No More Deaths” drive us to the desert with large quantities of water to refill the tanks they have placed where they know people attempt to cross. Next, a former Coyote or human smuggler from a local drug rehabilitation center leads us in silence towards the wall. Our walk is almost insultingly short, a mere half an hour to the wall. Most people spend 3-5 days in the desert. Yet, even though our backpacks are filled with water bottles and our arms are smeared with sunscreen, we walk with heavy hearts. The fresh footsteps in the sand, the empty Aquafina or soda bottles, and the child sized backpacks that we pass all serve to remind us of those who regularly travel that path.
Similarly to my class, the trip does not just concentrate on analyzing problems, but also explores creative solutions. Woolman students are excited to see two of their curricular subjects: micro-credit and permaculture in action during a visit to an organization co-founded by Cochise County Meeting member, Marybeth Webster. Dougla Prieta Works is a firsthand look at community based solutions for sustainable economic development. The organization is essentially a philanthropic partnership aimed towards self-sufficiency located in a low income neighborhood, specifically a brick-making barrio. On site activities include vocational classes such as computers and sewing, as well as opportunities for locals to learn more about methods of sustainable agriculture. Another wonderful example of microloans is seen when we visit the fair trade coffee roaster for Café Justo/Just Coffee. Frontera de Cristo members donated a sum of money to kick start the farmer owned cooperative which seeks to address the causes of labor migration to the U.S. Students buy large bags of the delicious organic and fair trade brew to bring home to their families as souvenirs and reminders of the nature of our trip.
It is not enough to say that each student who participates in this adventure is deeply touched. I, too, have been moved beyond words by seeing and feeling the beauty, the pain, and the complicated nature of what I had attempted to convey through lesson plans. This spring marks the fourth time that I will embark on this journey. I can hardly wait to be present to my students as they are awakened to this nearly invisible, but deadly conflict occurring each day on our border
At a tomato packaging Maquila
Global Issues Mexico Unit Resources
Frontera de Cristo: www.fronteradecristo.org
Just Coffee: www.justcoffee.org
The Maquila Solidarity Network: http://en.maquilasolidarity.org/
Femicide in Juarez: www.now.org/issues/global/juarez/femicide.html
Zapatista Uprising: http://www.democracynow.org/2004/1/2/the_zapatista_uprising_1994_2004_a
The 800 Mile Wall(amazing documentary): www.800milewall.org
No More Deaths: www.nomoredeaths.org
Hey everyone, I thought I would share the letter that I sent to parents a couple of weeks ago so that our wider community can get excited and more informed about our upcoming international field trip!
I hope this email finds all of you well. It is hard to believe that the
semester is already half over! I have to apologize, normally I have
written at least one update email for the parents in order to establish
a connection and encourage you to feel comfortable to be in touch. At
Woolman, time moves in a different way---weeks just fly by without
notice. Our lives are certainly full in this program: from our first
week's adventures on the ropes course and sledding hills to the service
trips building houses and farming and back again to campus. It has been
a whirlwind of exciting off campus experiences and rich learning in the
classroom. I have been sincerely impressed by this group. Every student
has brought so much to the program. Some excel during shared work with
positivity and helpful attitudes and others in the classroom with a
wealth of knowledge that they share with all of us. Of course, most
shine in one arena on some days and another the next day. Overall, it
has been a pleasure to live and work with these powerful young people.
On that note, I am happy to announce (what you must already know) that
we are leaving for Mexico on April 8th! It brings me a lot of
joy to spearhead this field trip for the fourth time. I believe very
deeply in the power of international travel to raise awareness and
nurture empathy for people and places that aren't in our immediate
surroundings. As soon as I graduated high school I set out to South
Africa and have since lived in Kenya, Taiwan, and Costa Rica, and
traveled extensively in S.E. Asia and Central America..
The start of this adventure is actually in the classroom. Next week, we
will begin our Mexico Unit. Heading it off will be a quick look at the
Mexican-American war via an article written by one of my favorite
historians, Howard Zinn. Then, we will reconnect with our recently ended
Globalization Unit as we discuss the positive and negative consequences
of the North American Free Trade Agreement (with a special look at the
indigenous uprising). We will spend the last few days analyzing the
immigration debate from a variety of perspectives. I cannot tell you how
exciting it is to then go out and live what we have been learning!
Although we go all the way to Mexico for this trip, mine is actually one
of the easiest of the trips to plan. For this experience, we are
partnered with Frontera de Cristo (www.fronteradecristo.org check out
the site and its links!) a wonderful U.S. based organization who hosts
American groups in Agua Prieta quite often for this type of work. They
are essentially a Presbyterian human rights organization with an
emphasis on immigration. Therefore, from the moment that we arrive we
are well taken care of. We always have an English-speaking point person
to guide us to and from our activities and several other contact numbers
if anything comes up. Mark Adams is the head of the organization, a
pastor from North Carolina who lives in Agua Prieta now with his wife
(from Chiapas, Mexico) and three children.
The four days spent south of the border are jam packed with
wonderful activities ranging from visiting a fair trade coffee roaster
to doing service work with a migrant resource center. We also
participate in a neat experiment where the kids are split into 2
families and need to shop in a Mexican grocery store on the salary of a
family who works at a Maquila. The Maquilas are the factories (often
having sweatshop-like conditions) that were set up as a result of NAFTA.
It is frustrating and rewarding for the kids who also then need to
prepare the food for 3 meals based on what they bought. The rest of the
meals are absolutely delicious (am I assuming that the student cooked
meals will not be as good? ) and cooked by local families who invite us
to their homes or visit us at the community center. Employees of
Frontera de Cristo live just next door to the community center and their
small children come to play with the students as much as possible. In
the past, we have had such memorable experiences as impromptu soccer
games and an impromptu break dancing lesson from local teens when we
were hanging out at the plaza. Wow, that was so cool to see the kids
interacting speaking in broken English and Spanish and just having a blast.
Overall, I have found this experience to deeply impact everyone
involved. I swear that I feel it changes my life every time I go.
Students have literally said it was the most important thing that they
have ever done in their lives! The border is an incredibly complicated
and tragic issue, but so many Americans have only the most superficial
understanding of what is happening. I never expect students to come away
from this experience with any conclusions or solutions, but a sincere
connection to people and places that are so very interconnected with our
own country. Truly, the stories we hear from citizens and migrants are
what most of us will remember years later.
Each time I go, I can't believe how perfectly the trip aligns with what
we study in the class. Connections with the curriculum were made that I
couldn't have even planned for! Not just for my class, but for all three
of the courses. We also visit a permaculture farm in Agua Prieta, not to
mention all of the factory farms and water issues that come up on the
drive down. In my opinion, this type of learning results in the deepest
I certainly understand concerns regarding the safety of the trip. I
fully acknowledge that, in general, the situation in many places in
Mexico is worsening. Each time I lead the trip, I am in close contact
with Mark regarding safety conditions and I also conduct research to see
understand the current situation (via international travel sites). My
understanding (which is aligned with the experiences that I have had
there) is that Agua Prieta is significantly less troubled than the
majority of border towns. While there may be drug trafficking happening
behind the scenes, incidences of violence occur far less often than most
major U.S. cities. We never actually travel more than 10 miles into
Mexico and always have a member of the organization with us between
sites. Additionally, a few of the leaders are fluent in Spanish,
too (I am fluent-ish?). The families that welcome us into their homes
and cook for us are so very warm. Many kids walk away with a deep
appreciation for the happiness that can exist for those who "own" so
much less than us.
Please know that I would not take kids if I felt unsafe. As an
experienced global traveler, I feel confident in my safety gauge and am
continually conscious of the preciousness of my cargo--ok, that was
really cheesy, but I just want you to know that I don't make any
decisions on this trip lightly.
While on the trip, we have nightly councils where we process what we are doing, too.
Reflection, reflection, and then more reflection! To tell you the truth,
it is in these nightly councils in Mexico that I have felt the most
fulfilled in my job. Students tend to be so sincere, open, deep, and
appreciative--its truly beautiful and brings the group together in an
I look forward to sending back a few photos in my next email as evidence
of learning and laughter!
On the wall, Spring 2010
How can service and movements for social change support and inform one another? Are there ways that service and activism are fundamentally different or opposed? (Editor's note: Hannah took part in the "food justice" service trip to Sacramento.)
There are a lot of issues in this world and there are two ways to address them: through social movements and service. They are both different and also both very important. Social movements can be defined as acts that aim to change the way society views and addresses a global issue. Service is aiding the surface of the problem. If I were to use the iceberg model, I would say that social movement address the root of the problem and service is addresses the tip of the problem. Both are vital parts of the solution for global issues.
During our service trip I felt that I was involved in a social movement as well as service. On our first day we volunteered at an organic farm in central Sacramento called Soil Born. At Soil Born we helped maintain the acres of vegetable gardens and help with installation of fruit trees as well as taking care of cows, chickens, and sheep. Soil Born sells produce every week at their farm stand and also donates a lot of produce to food banks. On top of that they also have a youth garden to encourage and educate youth to grow their own food.
What I found interesting about this particular form of service was that they focused a lot on educating the public on the importance of locally grown food and how it is not only better for the environment, but better for people’s health, and the economy as well. This, I think, is a good example of a social movement because they are addressing the root of the problem by educating people. Instead of giving food to people in need, they are teaching that anyone can be capable of growing their own food and by doing this; they can live an altogether healthier life. You can see this social movement taking affect by walking through the community of Village Homes, a small community on the outskirts of Davis that combines farming and housing for a more sustainable living style. Apparently there is waiting list for people who want to move there, and as we walked through I could see why. All the open spaces are filled with abundant plants, orchards or chicken coops. One family could easily get enough to eat by just taking a few steps outside. From our first few days I started to note the rewards of partaking in a social movement.
On our third day we volunteered for Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services at their Mobile Food Distrobution. The Mobile Food Distro travels around the Sacramento area giving fresh produce to the poor and hungry. We spent our time bagging and handing out these items to almost 300 people. This organization was providing a service to the people but it was not causing a social movement. There are always going to be people who are hungry and needing food, so this food bank gives them a way to meet those needs, but it does not solve the root of the problem.
In conclusion, I believe that service and social movements are both important. Where social movements help solve the problem from the root, service helps aid the immediate issues. One cannot exist without the other. If there were no services to distribute food to the poor and hungry they might starve and die. If we didn’t try and change the issue through a social justice standpoint then we would just keep providing food for the needy for infinity. Service is more addressing the top of the problem where social movements are teaching people to think different to help the world in the long run
How can service and movements for social change support and inform one another? Are there ways that service and activism are fundamentally different or opposed? (Editor's note: Laura opted to reflect on a service experience she had previous to Woolman.)
Actions speak louder than words. This is not to say that words are not integral in being proactive. Instead this more applies to the simple fact that sitting around and talking about change will never ensure that change will ever come unless action is taken. This is the relationship between service and movements for social change: service being the action and social change being the words.
Social movements give service a cause and service gives social movements a personal understanding. For example, I was a part of the social movement called Safe Ground Sacramento, which advocated for homeless peoples’ rights to a safe place to sleep at night. The more I researched and participated in the movement, the more I felt a need to serve at Loaves and Fishes, a homeless shelter in downtown Sacramento. I heard speeches while at protests given by inspiring advocates of human rights that stirred my soul and gave a fire to my passion for service. At nonviolent demonstrations I was surrounded by people who shared a strong connection with me through passion. A connection where all our differences melted away as we marched or stood together for long hours at a time. The more I dedicated my self to the movement I found myself more eager to act in service.
The cycle continued as the more I served the more I felt a deeper understanding and connection to Safe Ground Sacramento. I heard many people’s stories about how they lost their homes. I heard various definitions of the word “home” and how it had changed for those people over the course of their lives. The relationships I made while doing service and the stories I heard allowed me to gain a better understanding of the peoples’ need for the social movement Safe Ground Sacramento.
Though service and movements for social change have a close relationship, they are not the same thing. Service is more of a personal experience—at times even self-centered. When a person gives up a part of themselves for the benefit of someone else, they are acting through service. This makes the experience a very personal thing as it is the individual that is emphasized. In many cases, I learned more while serving than the person I was supposedly helping.
On the other hand, a social movement is more effective when the individual ceases to exist and the stress is laid on a group. The movement will only be successful if the people act as a people, together for each other. The goal is shared by all and therefore the responsibility is shared by all. I remember vividly how at one particular rally it was blazingly hot and the mood of the crowd was getting very tense with every bead of sweat that formed on our brows. Just when I thought I couldn’t stand it any more, a homeless man and his wife began to sing Amazing Grace acapella. Soon the rest of us joined in and the whole experience seemed to remind us all of why were there and the importance of being a part of such a wonderful and passionate group of people.
Service and movements for social change have a strong relationship, complementing and strengthening each other. As service builds on social movements, social movements build upon service. This is a simple relationship of support that is vital to change.
How can service and movements for social change support and inform one another? Are there ways that service and activism are fundamentally different or opposed? (Please note: Dajanne participated on the"food justice" service trip option in Sacramento and Davis, California.)
Social movements, to me, mean people that come together with a common ideology who try to achieve certain general goals, while service means work done by a group or one person that benefits another. With those definitions in mind, they are connected because they both consist of a person or group of people getting work done to either achieve a goal or benefit people/ a person.
The "food justice" trip consisted of a lot of service in addition to elements of social movements. We did a lot of weeding, gleaning, and distributing food for Soil Born Farms and Harvest Sacramento. Soil Born’s vision is to practice and teach sustainable agriculture within the city of Sacramento, because they care about the environment and want to help raise awareness to people so that they too can help the environment and food and nutrition access.
While I was on my service trip, I realized that service projects can be a form of social movement or social action. The reason I say this is because while we were gleaning trees, we were not only benefiting the people that were donating the fruit, we were also helping those that really needed the fruit in terms of needing healthy meals. I realized this on the third day, which was Thursday, of the service trip when I saw that oranges we had picked being given away, for free, to low income and homeless people. This picture was sad but enlightening. Sad because I too come from a low-income household and I know what half the people were going through and I feel as though we should not have to go through those things. Enlightening because I contributed hard work and time to pick the fruit that was being distributed, not knowing that it was for a good cause such as this one.
Although this experience wasn't new for me, because I've done work like this before just not in the same context, it was still a wonderful one. I enjoyed all the tasks we did.
Activism to me is a course of direct and aggressive action to achieve a political or social goal. With that said, service and activism can be fundamentally different but also the same in many ways. Different because service consists of a smaller scale of work done to help out people. While with activism, it helps on a much larger scale. They're the same, because they both tend to educate while helping out. I feel as though service projects can be a form of activism. Activism can start out on a much smaller scale, such as service, then go to a bigger scale like creating social movements.