SPRING VALLEY — Nine Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers have returned from Ecuador, where they used their gardening skills to lend a helping hand in rural communities. Springfield resident Pamela Bennett, Springfield resident Brian Baker and Bellbrook resident Jane Worth were three of the Master Gardeners.
They were on a gardening volunteer vacation, which was sponsored by The Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program and organized by The Tandana Foundation. The young daughter of one of the volunteers also participated in this trip. The volunteers learned many important lessons during their time in Ecuador.
“You come in the context of our value system and you learn to see their value system is just as precious as ours. It helps you see that our needs in the big picture are really luxuries,” said volunteer LaCresia Gaines, a Master Gardener from Cleveland.
The group was in Ecuador from February 12-19. They stayed in the city of Otavalo and worked on several gardening projects in the nearby community of Quichinche.
The volunteers worked with students in the school garden at the elementary school in Quichinche. Together they planted upwards of 100 ornamental plants and 100 medicinal plants as well as 100 trees. The school garden is used as an educational tool for the students and community members. After working in the school garden, the volunteers divided into three groups and presented different gardening lessons to students ranging in age from 10 to 12 years old.
For another project, the volunteers worked alongside individuals from the Pastavi neighborhood in Quichinche to plant 139 trees along four streets. They dug holes, and the local police helped deliver the trees in their pickup truck. When the planting was done, everyone enjoyed a celebratory meal together.
When they were not working in Quichinche, the volunteers spent time in other communities, learning about native plants and local gardening practices. They toured the gardens at Samyanuy cooking school and visited the weaving community Totora Sisa, where they learned about reed harvesting.
When the group visited the agricultural community of Morochos, they were joined by Matias Perugachi, a local plant expert and long-time Tandana friend. In Morochos, the volunteers learned about Alpaca raising, and native plant cultivation and reforestation. The trip was capped off with a visit to the Mojanda Gardens, a botanical garden.
The Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program provides intensive training in horticulture to interested Ohio residents who then volunteer their time assisting with educational programs and activities for Ohio residents through their local Ohio State University Extension county office.