happy-new-year-richmondvale A big Happy New Year from Richmond Vale Academy!

The year of 2018 has been extra ordinary in so many ways. 

I would like to thank all of you who are reading our blogs and news as you are in one way or another - part of making this world a better place.

The past year was a breakthrough in so many ways from new classrooms, home gardens, and program developments, fundraising and improving the overall impact we wish to see with Another Kind of School and the many actions to protect our beautiful planet. 

Food Security for All
The headline for 2018 was "Food Security for all" which has guided the focus throughout the year. With support from the Global Environment Fund (UNDP) and the Canadian Government we secured the start and implementation of the first 30 home gardens out of the 200 we have planned in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The home gardens are a game changer in the communities. The women and their families are empowered. They are proud owners of organic gardens and have new knowledge to share with their families, neighbours and the community. Many are more confident and look to the future with a more positive mind-set. Additionally, the women have acquired a new leadership role in their community by being the main drivers of the "organic farmers' cooperative".

Families have also improved their understanding of environmental and sustainable farming practices. The home garden project has set a distinct positive example for the children. They have been able to learn a lot about organic gardens, they have been inspired and they have been able to see a new way of doing things that were not evident in the past.

When implementing the organic home gardens we work together setting up fences, build beds and compost shed, creating a banana circle and other features and furthermore plant, mulch and prune. The home gardens are a wake up call for St. Vincent and the wider Caribbean; people from Universities and other schools, officials from the government, journalists and film makers from the media as well as people from the other side of the island and Vincentians living abroad, come to see, learn, discuss, and get inspired from the "Pass-It-On" home garden movement.

The home gardens bring people together and have several ring effects like neighbors taking on making a garden, women making gardens at their church and one of them even took upon herself to make a big organic garden at Belle Isle Correctional Facility in cooperation with the prisoners.

With this solid foundation – we can see the first goal we set out for, which was to build 200 gardens in the poorer villages of St. Vincent come true – by 2021.

Food Security at Richmond Vale Academy
The year's headline – pointing towards several focused efforts to our own food production. This has meant that our vegetable garden has experienced a total make over with new irrigation system, new beds, and improved compost system, seedlings and seed production. An additional acre of vegetable and staple production is in process of being established in the old lime orchard by the kitchen.

To produce more locally organic proteins, a new free-range chicken production has been set up and the daily production of eggs is around 140. The pig production is working according to the plan which means that we can eat a pig per month, which was the goal.

In July – teachers and students put a lot of efforts into transforming an old chemical banana field to a new organic sheep meat production. By the end of 2019 we will be able to feed ourselves with two sheep per month and have enough field space to add two cows for dairy production.

The income generating part of the Garden Farm had a boost with new passion fields; improved production and extension of the organic banana field along with a total shape up of the fruit garden. Pathways with benches have been created and trees have been pruned to increase productivity.

To continue the Climate Compliance conference ongoing tree planting efforts and food security RVA partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture and set 6000 Soursop tree seedlings, where of 3000 have already been picked up and planted. This production is set up with solar pumps, new compost system, and nursery improvement.

Soursop is a healthy fruit and also a good crop for farmers to grow to raise funds. Along with all the other benefits of planting trees – we have hit the "gold bird here".

The efforts for food security for all also led us to meet:
  • a school which needed more classrooms 
  • women with no light in their home 
  • a farmer with no electricity
  • backyards full of trash  
  • families with no beds to sleep in

So along with making home gardens – hands and hearts were put together to make a number of smaller and bigger projects to improve living conditions. All these endeavors are making a big difference in our student's lives as well as in the communities.

Other Program Developments
Throughout the year teachers and students have developed many areas of the program. Culture and Sports got a total make over with new sports clubs, the making of a new football field with goals, game and club nights both at the Academy and in the Village community centers.

Many students and some guests as well decided to discover the amazing biodiversity of the ocean, which meant that more than 20 people became certified divers and 15 Emergency First Responders.

New guest speakers were invited to talk about the current situation in Venezuela, Biodiversity in St. Vincent, Team Building, The War in Libya, The Global Banking system, History of Africans in North America and Trends in Latin America.

The Fighting with the Poor students made important contributions to Humana People to People's Child Aid and Farmers Club Projects in Ecuador and Belize mostly in terms of making vegetable gardens with farmers, communities and schools.

Buildings and Grounds
In 2018 we completed building three new classrooms, with support from a local trust, in the workshop building. It is really great to see the new classrooms with projectors and whiteboards. There are tiles on the floor, curtains, chairs and tables and even air-condition. With this grant the assembly hall in the main building also got a facelift with a new TV screen, whiteboard, tables and chairs.
It is a big pleasure to use these classrooms beautifully designed by two students in the fighting with the poor program. The wall art is an astonishing mural showing the importance of preserving our biodiversity.

Over the year – another big effort has been made to the buildings with a total upgrade of all student rooms. The rooms got new beds, shelves, lamps, curtains and mattress covers and walls, floors and tabletops were painted. Thirty such rooms have been upgraded and this has meant a big difference for the students.
Further more the park areas have been developed throughout the year with the planting of more than 200 flowers and trees for beautification, along with new beds, pots and pathways.

Bringing It to The Public
Over the past years the teachers at RVA have been very active in bringing the voice of the poor and the message of global warming and climate change to the public and this took a new turn in 2018. More than 500 people were reached with face to face public lectures and this time several other speakers entered the scene, like the home garden ladies went to conferences at the University of the West indies, CARICOM and our employed organic farming teacher travelled to St Kitts to the CARDI Caribbean Agriculture and Research Development Institute to present the organic home gardens RVA is making in St. Vincent.

The school's marketing manager even travelled to Turkey and held a public speaking at Van University for 200 people in connection with the new ERASMUS+ Program cooperation.
Along with the ongoing public speaking efforts, hundreds of Vincentians found their way to the academy to learn about a sustainable future, organic farming and renewable energy. More than 850 people visited in 2018.

We continue to put a big effort into networking with many different partners, both private and government institutions. We also continue to network with organizations both in SVG and on other nearby islands.

The school's promotions teams made many videos and posts to the schools social media outlets and efforts are constant to reach other medias. In 2018, a record number of articles were published in newspapers and online sites.

Radio programs were produced monthly and we printed our very first book "Ready for Climate Change" The St. Vincent Climate Compliance Conference 2012 – 2021 – The First Five Years, printed and handed out in 600 copies.

More students, more teachers and more activities
Once again the number of students, teachers and people involved in our activities increased. The main increase was in students joining the six months Climate Compliance Conference program, while the number of students in the one-month Climate Compliance Program and the Fighting with the program stayed the same as in 2017. The actual increase of students participating in programs has doubled up from 40 to 80 over a couple of years.

What this means is more gardens, more trees, more lessons, more radio programs, more clean ups, more of all the good stuff – all for a sustainable future for all.

We already know that the student and teacher body will further develop and increase in 2019 as we kick off the new year with 12 Vincentian Women on the first Climate Compliance Skills training course in just a few days!

Students and teachers in 2018 came from Colombia, Chile, Turkey, USA, Finland, France, Brazil, Scotland, Bulgaria, Norway, St. Vincent, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Slovak Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Japan, Iran and St. Kitts.

What a joy and privilege to be part of such a diverse and dynamic international team!

So once again – thank you to all for a fantastic year of 2018 and for reading!

Let's stay in touch, write to us, ask questions, and share your comments and stories. Let us know how you are doing and how we can continue working together for a better world.

Stina and the RVA Team