Community gardens in GemenaThe sun is hot on my arms as we make our way to one of our two community gardens in Gemena. Today, I ride with Guy, who swerves around potholes, carefully following Matthieu and Mandaba to the garden which benefits our youth project through the sale of produce.

We turn off onto a skinny, curvy dirt road and make our way through tall grasses and shrubs slapping our arms and legs. We burst out of the dense, cool green into a field with us facing a mountain range in the distance and between here and there, there is only beauty. The contrast between the bluest sky, the greenest cassava plants, and the reddest earth is breathtaking and I soak in the view while the others talk. Too soon, Matthieu pushes off by foot and we all follow him down this tiny path and into the land that houses the garden.

It has rained recently and the ground is saturated. The guys bought me rubber boots for today and we slosh though muck and mud and tall grass, chatting as we go. Suddenly, I attempt to lift my foot to step forward, but my too-large boot is stuck and my foot almost comes out to land in the muck. Everyone tries to reach me as I totter and hands grasp from all directions, issuing orders to “stay still, Tanya!”, as though I am doing this on purpose. We all laugh loudly as this happens time and again….my boots are way too big and every time I step in deep mud, I sink low and then, unable to step forward, I have to bend down and, grasping the top of the boot, I pull up with all my might to make the next step. I find this incredibly funny, which makes is all laugh away the fact that i am wearing size 41 boots instead of size 36.

We make it to the garden and there, onions, peanuts, pineapple, peppers, eggplant, celery, and okra are growing. The peanut area is lush and green, making me want to run my hands over all the plants as their leaves overlap, creating a gorgeous cover which looks soft and pliable.

From there, we make our way to where I see people working the onion section. We make introductions and I have the pleasure of meeting our first group of beneficiaries of this particular project. Guardians of AIDS orphans and HIV infected parents are the laborers in the gardens, each working 3-day work weeks. This allows them to have time to earn a living while taking care of their health and of their children. They look intense as they work today, each wearing gumboots that fit them well, along with vests that designate them as part of this team. They take this work seriously and it is obvious from what I can see that this project is moving towards success.
We retrace our steps back, pulling my boots out of deep mud as we make our way back to the motorcycle so we can continue our series of meetings in an effort to make each project better yet.

#AFCaids #GardensofHope #beKind