August 2019 Reflection

2019 CFET YouthJermaine making pizza (2019)Summer Celebration (2019)

Dynasty Birriel, Jermaine Brown-Gourdine, Katelyn Garcia, Tiana Ortiz, Fabian Peralta, Henry Phan, Celeste Rodriguez, Karen Thach, Nathaniel Torres, Anisa Robinson, Adrian Peralta and Destiny Wilson:  2019 Eco-Interns and Youth Leaders.

This past Saturday, in Eve’s Garden on Emerald Street, in the Waterfront South Neighborhood of Camden, NJ we celebrated the work, creativity, energy and personalities of these 12 young people. Friends and family of many of them came, as well as friends of CFET. They prepared a long table, made up of several, that sat 40 people.  The tablecloths were grand, with vases of fresh picked flowers from CFET’s gardens, standing guard every 6 feet down the middle of the table. Also down the middle of the table was brown paper, with crayons generously spread out for any children to use for doodling.

The meal consisted of personal pizzas baked in the handmade bread oven, just outside the garden, in the backyard of our wonderful friend, Betty Musetto.  The oven was so hot that a pizza cooked in 91 seconds!  We also had fried and baked chicken from Corinne’s in Camden. Some neighbors made a few sides: Britani Nester had an amazing carrot salad, Cheryl Heatwole-Shenk brought a peanut sauce that was good on everything!!!  Sue Compton, Farmer Jon’s mom, baked cookies. The youth prepared cut cucumbers, radishes, a salad, sliced tomatoes, watermelon slices and we had corn on the cob (cooked in the bread oven in the husk!).  There was iced tea, lemonade and water flavored with herbs from the garden, as well as some with fresh fruit serving to sweeten the water. It was an amazing sight of colors, smells, textures, and tastes. (Stay alert for a story about the bread oven next month!)

The youth leaders called each eco-intern up, affirming them with an award named after an outstanding attribute that each displayed all summer.  The awards included “the most likely to help a stranger on the street,” “the most talkative,” “the most kind,” “the most likely to become the mayor of Waterfront South,” “the most likely to be himself,” “the most likely to keep you on your toes” and “the most likely to push herself to try new things.” Each eco-intern got an award and words of affirmation from the youth leaders.

One of our youth leaders is leaving for college this week, Anisa Robinson. She is going to Drew University and majoring in English. She is an amazing writer. She recently wrote a blog post about CFET and her work; you can read it here. Best wishes, Anisa, on your studies at Drew! Please come back to visit us!

Britani Nester, CFET’s Youth Wellness Coordinator, and Jon Compton, our farmer, worked with these young people all summer. They did a brilliant job! These young people from all over Camden, who didn’t know each other for the most part, became a tight community, willing to get deep with each other on the issues confronting their hometown: the scarcity of fresh fruit and vegetables, the polluted air, the stormwater issues, the lack of economic opportunity for many in the neighborhoods despite the building boom in center city and the need for creativity in meeting the city’s challenges. Of course, they also worked, for $10 an hour, tending to and harvesting the vegetables and fruit from our garden spaces. They are extraordinary young people, as are Jon and Britani!

This program is only possible because of the partnerships we form with people like you. If you want to invest in the lives of young people in Camden, consider partnering with us. The number of young people we hire is directly linked to the financial support of partners like you. The more partners we have, the more young people we can hire, and the more awards we can give out at the end of the summer celebration!

I was reminded recently of something Leo Tolstoy once wrote, that “beauty will save the world.” Here at CFET we do our part to create beauty, in the produce we grow and in the foods we prepare for market. But that is not all! We work to remind ourselves, and those we partner with, and especially the young people like those who were with us this summer, that they are beautiful. It is a beauty that will save the world, and Saturday, the 17th of August, 2019 was a time when Beauty Herself visited us in Eve’s Garden, in Waterfront South, Camden, New Jersey!

Be the beauty that you are!

Mark Doorley, Ph.D.

Treasurer, Board of Trustees

The Center for Environmental Transformation