CUL DE SAC, Sint Maarten - St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers and American University of the Caribbean (AUC) School of Medicine students planted 180 vegetable and fruit plants in recycled plastic bottles and constructed 10 “risers” from discarded wooden pallets as part of a garden recycling project for All Children’s Education Foundation (ACE) School on Saturday.
A total of 24 AUC students, 18 Tzu Chi volunteers and 16 ACE pupils and teachers volunteered their time for the project, which is aimed at encouraging ACE pupils to combine gardening and recycling to grow and eat their own food. Participants also took the opportunity to clean the ACE school compound during the volunteer effort.
The intention was to use recyclables to create gardens, while at the same time teaching pupils the value of growing locally. For the volunteer effort, Tzu Chi and AUC volunteers cut out the sides of large plastic oil bottles and sliced water bottles in half and transformed them into plant pots, by punching holes in the bottom and filling them with soil for seeds/seedlings to be planted in them.
The pallets were used to construct plant “risers.” The risers were built with numerous shelves on them, on which the plants in the recycled plastic bottles will be placed to grow. The plant risers are considered space savers when it comes to gardening as they do not take up much space, but can hold many plants. The intention was to also show pupils that even though they may not have a lot of space in their yards, they can still engage in fruitful gardening.
The range of vegetables and fruits planted included tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet peppers, sweet basil, green onions, celery, carrot tops, baby bok choy, okra, potatoes, sweet potato, passion fruits, melon, papaya, lime, grapefruit, mango, avocado and noni.
Some of the plants will eventually have to be transplanted. At the end of the almost five-hour long initiative, the plants and the risers were placed along the perimeters of the ACE school compound and students have assumed the responsibility to ensure that they are properly watered as they witness first-hand the growth of the plants from seeds/seedlings to plant.
Volunteers had been collecting the empty oil containers and water bottles and collecting wooden pallets over the past few months in preparation for the project.
AUC volunteers said they were thankful for the opportunity to assist in such a positive initiative.
Many AUC volunteers also said the experience had been an eye opener for them and they also learnt a lot about gardening and plants through their involvement.
“This was a very fruitful event. It was really fun to be part of such an enthusiastic group of volunteers. At the end of the event I was tired, but very satisfied and happy,” said one Tzu Chi volunteer.
Tzu Chi Commissioner Sandra Cheung thanked all volunteers for sacrificing a portion of their day to help with what she said had been a very fruitful project.
She also thanked all the businesses that supported the project with their donations including Greenfingers and ACE.