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The 6 months program is unique in many ways. It provides the students with a practical understanding of topics surrounding sustainable agriculture and climate change adaptation. For most of the students, including me, many of these topics would have maybe always remained theoretical concepts.
The program is structured in several "periods", each of which has its bright sides and difficulties. For sure, however, all of them are too short. The most intriguing was, in my opinion, the second month: Making RVA Climate Compliant. The idea of this period is to carry out practical actions to improve the ecological footprint of the academy itself.
It all started with a little outrage: RVA is supposed to be a sustainable community, so why are the hens living under such miserable conditions? They seem sick and certainly don’t have enough space! Aren't we supposed to assume the function of a role model? Expecting the worst, we decided to confront the RVA management with these questions during the next common meeting.
It was a relief to hear that the RVA management was thankful for our criticism. They acknowledged that the hens had not received enough attention recently and immediately set up a chicken task force. Over the next weeks, we planned the construction of a 2000 m2 chicken field, providing at least 4 m2 outdoor space per animal, as defined in the EU regulations on organic poultry production, and a spacious house in the middle. Moreover, we planned to cover the field with different fruit trees, which would be fertilised by the chicken manure, provide fruits for the students and shadow for the hens.
Under the tropical sun, however, the hardship of digging the massive trench for the chicken fence soon began to sober up our idealism. Every day, we encountered new difficulties we had not thought of before. Despite working overtime almost every day, Making RVA Climate Compliant turned out to take much longer than expected. We even decided to make some changes in the 6 months curriculum in order to be able to finish the project before our departure.
Even if we didn’t manage to finish all details of our chicken project, it was a moment of joy to move the hens into their new environment. If the project will be sustainable now mainly depends on the RVA staff and the new teams. We hope they will take good care of our chicken project and see the fruit trees grow and blossom. Unfortunately, we did not have this privilege anymore.
My advice for new students: Be proactive! Of course, nothing is perfect and life in a remote community has its challenges. But time at RVA is limited, so try to embrace this unique learning experience and engage in community life and activities!
Reading back on history, it seems easy to imagine everything happened for a purpose. For sure, however, I have been benefitting from my time at RVA ever since. Had I not participated at the 6 months program, probably I would have a different take on my current job. And I am grateful to have met so many inspiring personalities, including my amazing girlfriend, my beautiful brothers and sisters from the August team, the other teams, the RVA team and the people from St. Vincent!

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By Julian, August Team 2017

I remember how my legs were shaking before I got on the plane.

How I had to wipe away a tear because I was so afraid of being alone a long time.
The best decision i could have made.

One year ago I decided to spend a few months on St. Vincent at Richmond Vale Academy to be active as a climate activist.
I had my graduation from high school and was looking for an adventure.
So i decided to be part of the 6 months November 2017 Climate Compliance program at Richmond Vale Academy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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We focused on Organic Farming and Permaculture.
We created with single woman garden in their backyard so that they do not need to buy the imported stuff out of the supermarket.
It fulfilled my heart with such a pleasure to see how we created something so beautiful by only believe in our-self.

We also went to some of the schools on St. Vincent and gave lessons about climate change and the impact of our behavior on the environment.
We met amazing people on this island and learned a lot about the Caribbean culture.
I also had the chance to learn a lot about myself and as soon as i arrived back home i was much more confident.

But what i really spiritualized are 3 important things while i was part of this beautiful community :

Do not be afraid of trying new things and leaving the old behind.
Sometimes it is not enough to only wait until something really really great will happen. You are the key of everything beautiful in your life.
life is better on the `rainbow island ` and i will come back for sure!

Thanks to all the people who worked with us and made this possible.
And thanks to all the people who were part of this amazing community.

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felix

My name is Ammon Felix and I am from the Richland, WA, U.S.A. I was part of the Fighting Shoulder to Shoulder with the Poor Program at Richmond Vale Academy from April 2016 - November 2017. During this Time I spent 6 months studying the massive forces in the world that keep many people in poverty. I spent 6 months learning the practicalities of working with an NGO and with the people of Opoluca, my assigned village in the province of Loja, Ecuador. Later I spent 8 months more at RVA studying Permaculture, gardening, leading trips and Teaching one month Climate Activist Courses.

You are joining a program that has taken many shapes and forms. Many diverse people from many countries have taken this opportunity to leave their comfort zone and join the struggle for a more just and sustainable world. As you should know by now this program is guided by you and your teammates. You must be morally motivated and enthusiastic or your chance to make a difference will slip away. You and your teammates must learn to live and work together. If you do this you can build something truly amazing in a short amount of time. Some advice from my own experience in the program. Use your first period in Saint Vincent to learn as much as you can about food production, crafts, tools, cooking, and organizing events. Gather resources such as books, instruction manuals, and project ideas for use in the service period, you will need to be able to start projects often from scratch. Spend as much time as you can visiting Farmers, Community Leaders, and other villages while in Saint Vincent, Selly Patterson and Luke Punnet will be a great resources.

Remember that RVA is a playground to try out projects, gardening techniques and new ways of organizing community actions, make use of it! For my service period I was in Ecuador. When I arrived in there I spoke no Spanish. I learned Spanish by necessity, This is not the ideal way to learn a language but it worked. I could teach classes, give reports and work independently after just 2 1/2 months. If you are worried about learning Spanish, or English, do not worry. Spend every chance you get speaking and do not be afraid to make mistakes. If you follow this advice you will learn very quickly. Take every opportunity you have to connect with the people you are working with even if this means losing some privacy or small comforts. Spend time talking with the families, if they invite you to events or parties take that chance to experience the culture they want to share with you. My favorite memory from Ecuador was watching the sunset and shelling peanuts the families in the village. You have been given a people to work with, some financial resources and connections with the NGOs you will be working with.

Make use of all these resources as much as possible. Your job is not to "help poor people". Most of the people you are working with are strong, capable people, your job is to bring new ideas and new energy to an old system. While I was in Ecuador I helped start home gardens, taught English and basic Natural Science Classes, and my own project was to build water filters for reusing dishwater. I could have done more in my project if I had more ideas and resources to draw from, this is why I want to reiterate that you should learn as many practical skills as possible in Saint Vincent and use the Internet to find Inspiration and resources. The Journal period of your program is your chance to reflect on your experience and share them with the public. Previous participants have written books, made films, done presentations or started projects in Saint Vincent as part of their reflection. Personally I shared my experience and knowledge by leading trips around Saint Vincent to meet people and get to know the island and teach the one month climate courses at RVA. This was an amazing opportunity. We had many opportunities to organize actions with people in Saint Vincent. One piece of advice I would give is don't get too caught up in the comforts you are used to. Take opportunities to camp out with a local farmer, organize to stay in a community center for a weekend and organize activities with community leaders. Initiate projects, initiate activities and actions, use your experience to create something beautiful to share and pass on to others. RVA is an amazing place. It has it's own culture and pace of life. Make use of the unique opportunity the school presents. You have people from 5-20 countries at any moment as well as the rich local culture, create art, make music and share your culture.

You will have a team budget that can be used to start projects or organize community events, this is an invaluable resource. Learn to create things with recycled materials and build things with limited resources. Get to know the local people working at the school, they are amazing people. My final advice to give is if you have a question or want to learn something ASK SOMEONE! If they don't have the answer they will know someone who does. As for me after I left RVA I returned to the United States. I found one of my passions while working in Ecuador and Saint Vincent. While working in impoverished communities I saw that a sustainable communities begins with sustainable food. If you are working in development of any kind growing food must be involved. After realizing this I decided I had to learn to Farm. When I returned to the United States I found an apprenticeship on an organic Vegetable and Flower farm. I hope to one day use my knowledge to grow food for a school, food bank or other community organization. My other passion is working with trees. I will be working to train as an Arborist this winter. Working, Living, and Teaching at Richmond Vale Academy helped me learn to build a community, how to take opportunities and open my eyes to the wide world we live in. I now see the massive issues that face us today such as climate change, neocolonialism, and increases food and water insecurity, but now I also have the ability see and make my own solutions. I hope you find this program as educational, fantastic and exciting as I did. Feel free to contact me with questions, to brainstorm ideas or just to chat!

Ammon Felix

alex

Listen to each other and be willing to compromise.

 I had a great time, and hope to offer some tips to help you enjoy your time.

I imagine now you are just meeting your new team; soon you will be comfortable with each other and so you will have disagreements. Make sure your voice is heard, both within your team and within the school. If you have an issue with something speak about it. But also listen to each other and be willing to compromise.

Also, look beyond the little problems at the school, to the bigger picture of what you are doing at RVA. Most of what you learn won't be in courses or morning assemblies. You will learn through your experiences, and many times will have to initiate the learning yourself. Pick projects that are needed, but ones you can learn from. Also, people there know a lot, but you will have to get them to teach it.

Talk to the teachers, staff, and Vincy's; find out what they know and ask them to teach you.
For example, if you want to learn more about permaculture work with Luke as often as possible. Or if you want to learn how to make jam, talk to Vereen; don't ask about salt-fish though. Finally, explore meet local folks; people there are so nice.
Many contacts you make will be helpful with your projects. Explore the island; don't be afraid of going anywhere; the only things that can hurt you are mosquitoes and jack spaniards. And get away on your own, think and learn about yourself. At RVA you can learn a lot, create awareness of environmental issues, and have lots of fun; but you will need to work at it.
Hope this is helpful.
Alex

tomikavolunteercaribbean

The road gets rocky and the best thing to do is to keep moving.

My name is Tomika Caesar and I will like to welcome you all to my beautiful country St. Vincent and the Grenadines and also to Richmond Vale Academy.
I was a part of the Africa Team program in 2008- 2009. On my team we were 17 participants from 7 different countries. Despite our differences we all had 1 goal in mind. We were all determined to go to our projects and help those in need.
When I left from RVA I was a completely different person. I learned things that I would have learned in a 5 years program at university or I would not have learned at all. Example I was born, raise and Educated in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and it was only until I was at the RVA that I learned about the Garifuna history. That’s something that I was never thought in my history classes, or heard from my parents. I also learned farming, what going on around the world that Media fails to report, different culture, team work, how to appreciate the things around me and I can go on about many more good examples of things that I learned while at the RVA.
From the experience I had while at the RVA I will say that sometimes the road get rocky and the best thing to do is to keep moving on because somewhere ahead you will manage how to walk on the rocks. Fights are expected to come because of misunderstanding or things are not the way that someone wants them to be. Don’t ignore problems that you might have, solve the problems amongst you all as a group.
Take lots of pictures because you will need them someday. Every moment is memorable so cherish each other.

You are enroll in one of the RVA programs because of a reason so take examples of these four DI’S whom are mentioned above and use them as your role model.
In case anyone wants to contact me, my e-mail address is tomika_caesar@yahoo.com