Over the past year or so, I've become familiar with the organization Leave It Better and gotten to know a few of its incredible team members. Leave It Better is an organization which empowers youth to heal the environment, primarily by teaching them gardening and composting skills, as well as filmmaking skills so they can document their experiences as they learn to grow food. The LIB team then edits the film clips created by the children and shares them online, with the ultimate goal of creating a global youth gardening documentary which will be called "the reGeneration."
Leave It Better is currently in the tail end of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for their reGeneration documentary. They recently put together a campaign video where Dominique tells her story of how she developed her passion for gardening and health. Witnessing the suffering that her father went through as a consequence of his poor eating habits, she discovered gardening to be a healthy alternative, a way to take control of one's food choices and therefore one's health. She embodies what it means to take the challenges that life throws at us and create positive solutions which grow healthy, empowered citizens and heal us, our communities, and our environment. But don't take my word for it - watch the video yourself :) And consider supporting their efforts to make the reGeneration film a reality by becoming a backer of their Kickstarter campaign.
A few years ago when working with students at MS 331 in the Bronx, the Leave It Better team members were approached by a teacher in the school with the suggestion that they should clean up the abandoned park across the street from the school and make it into a garden. They agreed, going through all of the steps necessary to register the garden with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation/ GreenThumb, get the community involved, and clean up the garden. Dominique, who wears the hat of Garden Manager amongst many others, also took a class at the NY Botanical Garden to become a Master Composter. Their work with this garden in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx - which they call the Leave It Better Kids' Garden - has inspired hope in the community and its youth. The youth are assigned roles and each have their own garden tasks and responsibilities, creating a sense of purpose for them in the community while also providing residents with a tangible solution to the health problems plaguing many neighborhoods in the Bronx: freshly grown food. There are garden plots for the youth, the seniors, and even for King of Glory Tabernacle Church down the road. The entire community, which previously was just like many others in the Bronx - a "food desert" filled with very few healthy food options - now has a direct source of fresh, local produce, as well as a method of empowering kids to create positive change in their neighborhood. And they've partnered with BronxWorks, a social service organization, to bring a farmers market to the neighborhood too, bringing in yet more fresh produce and employment opportunities for residents who help run the market, which is on Thursdays this summer by University Ave & West 181st Street in the Bronx.
Leave It Better team members Graham, Dominique and Roz are doing their part to "leave it better" by empowering youth in this Bronx community and in schools citywide to care for the environment, contribute to a sustainable food system, develop healthy eating habits, and be positive change agents in the world around them. Now it's our turn to do our part. The reGeneration Kickstarter campaign has raised over $10,000 so far but still needs to raise nearly $25,000 by July 14th in order for the campaign to be funded and any of the pledges to be counted. But now it's up to us - we must be the change we wish to see in the world. Diet-related diseases cost billions of dollars a year in medical costs, ruining millions of people's quality of life and our national budget. But we have the answers, and they lie in empowering the younger generation to contribute to a sustainable food system and develop healthy eating habits. We must become the answer to our prayers. Now is our opportunity to support a worthwhile cause and have the story of youth gardening be captured in a documentary which can be shared worldwide for years to come. Consider pledging a donation to the Kickstarter campaign and passing the word on to your friends, family and colleagues. Together we can make a difference.