Written by Plant With Purpose on September 15, 2011 in General
by Corbyn Small
In May, I found myself in Oaxaca, Mexico, leading a group of 14 people on a Vision Trip to gain an enlightening and life-changing firsthand understanding of Plant With Purpose’s work. This was the second vision trip I’d ever organized and led on my own. I had done lots of preparation and all my expectations were set about how I might facilitate a ‘top-notch’ Vision Trip. We had a long day of traveling to arrive in the field. We had a long flight followed by a shorter flight (in a plane that in my estimate the FAA had no idea of its existence), a quick breakfast, and then a long bumpy ride in a 14-passenger van (which would have been far more comfortable with 14 rather than 14+1 on a cooler).
Our first view of Plant With Purpose’s programs wasn’t exactly what I had been imagining. We pulled off the side of the road in rural Oaxaca, piled out of the van and walked over to a fenced area on a pretty plain looking piece of land. There were a couple of hundred 5 foot tall pine trees planted along a hillside and a couple hundred more pines that were about a foot and a half tall sitting outside of the fencing. Not what I was thinking of starting the trip with.
Mexico, Flexico. When you’re in Mexico, you better be prepared to be flexible (thanks Benji, fellow traveler, for that reminder).
I was kind of hoping to show massively deforested hillsides with crazy amounts of erosion that would shock our travelers. Something that would help them to see the desperation and the need that Plant With Purpose works to meet and serve every day. Then, for the rest of the trip I would share all of the wonderful programs and life changing impacts that are being made. That was my plan.
I was a little frustrated that my planning was going out the window as we stood on a hillside in the middle of nowhere. Our forestry expert, Eduardo, started explaining, “these trees will be used to manage the watershed and provide income for famers through sustainable harvesting.”
Then a traveler asked him how long it would take for the farmers who planted these trees to see any income from the trees. Eduardo responded proudly, “40-50 years.”
UGH! My immediate thought was, “so WHY would we start off here?”
In the midst of trying to figure out how on earth I was going to recover from this embarrassing kick-off to sharing our awesome programs, the rest of the travelers were intently listening to Eduardo as he explained that this project is maintained by the entire community and is being used to educate children at a nearby school about the importance of root systems, maintaining water tables, restoring soils, and community cooperation.
I confess that I completely missed much of this incredible conversation taking place amongst the Vision Trip travelers because of my shortsightedness. They conversed about how incredible it was that this community had organized and operated this reforestation effort with such vision for the future. They learned that the community buy-in was so high that, while the first phase of the project had been fenced in to protect against theft and grazing animals, the community had determined that the second phase would not require fences because of the cooperative maintenance and care for the property. Despite the fact that these trees were not going to benefit a majority of the current adult population, they had planted them and begun teaching their children about the importance of being strong stewards of their environment and working together.
In order for families and communities such as this one to think about future generations, they need to be able to provide for the here and now first. This is where Plant With Purpose fits in, teaching sustainable agriculture techniques, diversifying incomes, helping families have access to savings and credit, and most important of all… helping individuals to see themselves as valuable treasures of God who are filled with talents and skills that will have an incredible impact on their communities. And that is something in all my planning and hoping and frustration, even I needed to remember.
Thanks to my older brother Cody for taking some age old wisdom and turning them into a piece of art.