April 2018 Reflection

Happy Easter to all those who celebrate this great feast of life over death! It is always so wonderful to celebrate this feast as earth is bursting forth with life after a long winter, and this winter was long….

Last month we had two groups at the Center: one from George Mason University and the other from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They were fantastic! They were a breath of Easter air, young people alive with promise and energy and willingness. After MIT left, board member Cathy Nevins wrote a letter to their families. Here is that letter!

Life always has the last word!

Mark Doorley, Ph.D.

President Emeritus, CFET Board of Trustees

April 2, 2018

Dear Parents of Students from MIT,

Thank you for blessing The Center for Environmental Transformation with your students this week when they completed a service commitment with us. Your students came into Camden and were eager to begin this new adventure where they hoped to become co-creators of change for families, for Earth, for themselves. Here’s what they did.

On Sunday, they were introduced to our programs and our work sites. They learned of our history and we learned a little about them. We prepared them for the adventure they were about to begin in the morning. On Monday they traveled to New Visions, a day center for homeless people. They met the homeless men and women, and talked with them and shared stories, both theirs and those of the homeless people. After lunch, they traveled back to CfET where they were introduced to Rosebud, a therapy chicken, and her owner, Gwen, who discussed with them the ability to change town statutes to benefit local residents and access to better quality food. Rosebud was a huge success! In the evening they baked bread and sang songs with two of our presenters and discussed “food deserts” like Camden where fresh food is always difficult to find for our residents. And this was just Monday!!

On Tuesday, they worked with Farmer Jon in our organic gardens planting seeds and completing a hoop house to protect the new plants from frost.  They worked with our children from Sacred Heart School in the afternoon. They learned that these children, many of whom live in poverty in our struggling yet invincible city, have great joy and are eager to learn about them and their own possibilities when they are ready for higher education.  In the evening we discussed climate change and local initiatives that are bringing our communities together to save the health of Earth and each other.

On Wednesday, they worked again with Farmer Jon and heard about our fruit orchards, our bee hives and honey, and our hot sauce, made on site, and marketed by our Eco-Interns. Later that day, they worked at Cathedral Kitchen, a non-profit that spun out of a soup kitchen into a training program for young adults to learn restaurant and entrepreneurial skills. They toured, had lunch with the visitors, and made sandwiches for delivery later in the day

On Thursday, they worked at the Food Bank for our county, sorting and packaging food supplies that are delivered to communities. In the evening, they worked at Joseph’s House, a homeless shelter where they worked and talked with our homeless men  gaining a new perspective on the struggles of the homeless.

On Friday, after more garden work (it’s the beginning of planting season), your students worked with Farmer Jon and some of our Senior Farmers, young adults from Camden that we train and employ as farmers, for our acre of chemical free land, for our two orchards and our three bee hives. These young adults have managed our farmer’s market and have developed and marketed our hot sauce and honey. They completed a community-building project together with your students.

On Saturday, as we completed our discussions about what they had learned, experienced, and shared together, we sent them off with hugs and promises to return. At the end of this letter you will find some of the comments expressed by them in our final meeting. I hope you find these as welcoming introductions to conversation with your young adults about their experiences.

We loved having your young adults with us. We hope you agree that their experience will leave a lasting impression on them. We hope you might consider supporting us in our work at CfET. The fees paid by your student cover only 30% of the cost of running CfET. We hope you will visit our website  ( www.cfet.org)  for photos, videos,  and information about our work and needs. We are always looking for people who will invest time, energy and resources to this important work. We hope you might consider helping. Thanks.

Cathy Nevins, Board Member, CfET

Comments heard in final discussion group:

-I learned I enjoy doing service and I can be an effective leader!

– So many things in the past shape what experiences resonated with me. I must always reflect on what I experienced if I am to grow as a person.

-I have grown up with many advantages that I never really thought about before.

-I want to look at my future goals and always consider my motivation behind them.

-We all have a responsibility to make our communities better.

-The children at Sacred Heart School were so joyous even though they lived in a poor community. They were honest, loving, and confident!

-I met a homeless grandfather who had been a college student when he became ill, lost his home, and went to prison yet he wants to complete his degree!

-At Cathedral Kitchen, even the kitchen workers had an amazing perspective about Camden and about the people they serve never looking down on them because they are poor.

– I think when I go back to MIT, I want to rethink the conversations I have when I meet someone new. I want to learn about people’s personalities and interests and not just their classes.

– When I return to school, I want to step back from the hustle at times so I can gain perspective and integrate more of my experiences. It’s easy to forget there are poor communities near MIT.