From Richmond Vale Academy at the beginning of the road on the small beautiful island of St. Vincent in the Eastern Caribbean we wish you a very Happy New Year!
The year has been remarkable in so many ways at our small so very active academy in the Richmond Valley: the teachers council has grown considerably, the number of students is moving forward, we started a new Fighting Shoulder to Shoulder with The Poor program and carried out life changing activities in villages around St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in Belize. All this we bring to the public – thus reaching thousands of people across the world with hope and inspiration to make the necessary changes in a time of Climate Emergency.
In 2019, one hundred students found their way to our academy and joined courses from 1 week to 10 months from all corners of the world; Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Guyana, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, Iran, USA, Finland, France, England, Norway, Germany, Austria, Holland, Belgium, Turkey, Spain, Switzerland, Lithuania, Slovak Republic, Poland, Japan and Nigeria.
Among all these students 30 came from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Teachers and students made big efforts together with many families, partners and government institutions in terms of moving forward with food and water security. Sixty ecological model gardens have been completed and funding has been secured for another forty home gardens for 2020.
We made a new partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and together we develop the ecological farming program at the Belle Isle Correctional Facility; every week more than 20 prisoners participate in theoretical and practical farming classes with Emris Stapleton.
The ecological home gardens are a big success in the communities where they are built, there is more employment, more healthy food and people are becoming more aware of what we can do to get ready for climate change and building sustainable communities.
The families together with teachers and students: create the design for their garden, set up fences, build the beds, plant the seeds, make banana circles and compost, plant, mulch and prune.
After building several gardens nearby the Academy, a grant was won to make the first ten gardens in Fancy on the other side of the island and with this a new tradition was born: The Home Garden Seminar where "new" and "old" gardeners came together and shared their experiences with each other.
This seminar was a big success and a good development connecting people.
People from different Universities, government units, media and community groups are getting involved and are sharing their stories, visiting the gardens and are interested to get started with ecological farming.
During the year we have continued to develop all the farm productions here on campus, which includes improving the production in all the passion fruit fields, agroforestry fields, the vegetable production, composting and irrigation and the overall soil health and biodiversity in the production.
The livestock production with eggs is at its best so far, we produce 160 eggs a day, the herd of sheep are up to 12 and we have started to process meat from sheep to get more sustainable proteins.
During the year teachers and students have made several investigations in order to learn about coral restoration, mangrove planting and protection of marine mammals such as whales and turtles. Over the next years we would like to include more actions to protect and defend the coast line due to the threats of sea level rise and storm surges.
We started the new 10 months Fighting with The Poor program and the new training is thoroughly prepared with a new database with courses, evaluations, actions and study tasks. The current students are ready for their work as Development Instructors in Belize and Ecuador and will depart by the middle of January.
During the year several building upgrades were completed; the three year roof project finished and we successfully improved the solar installations, so we are on 100% renewable electricity.
We added another 48 solar modules (panels) to the school's off-grid system, bringing the total photovoltaic array to an output of 32 kilowatt, up from the original 18. This means that the battery bank of 120 batteries now can be fully charged each day, even when it is cloudy.
The grid tied system has been connected to the national grid, operated by VINLEC, the state-owned commercial producer of electricity in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. From this installation we are able to produce 230-250 kWh an average per day.
We also won two major awards:
The Energy Globe Award for St Vincent for Biogas Models
The Caribbean sustainable Tourism Award in Social Enterprise.
Both awards were rewarded with generous media coverage.
We can in conclusion say that 2019, has been a remarkable year and we can only look forward to an eventful, exciting and productive 2020.
Richmond Vale Academy