the Olympic Mountains
So, my standard practice before going to each monthly location is to research ahead of time different non-profits, local organizations, events, etc. in the area, and to try and get involved in some way. I’ve found this to be a really effective and exciting way to learn – both about the regions where I’m staying, as well as about the people there and the interesting and important initiatives and activities in which they’re involved. It’s also a great way to help the communities that I visit (albeit in very teeny tiny – and brief! – ways), to make good connections, and to have new experiences.
One of the interesting (and informative) parts of this process for me has been to observe how folks respond to my somewhat vague initial email outreach, which usually goes something like this:
Hi there –
I am going to be in _____ for the month of _____ and wondering if you need any volunteer help for the month. I would love to help out in anyways that I can. I look forward to hearing from you!
Some people never respond, and some reply with a “thanks but no thanks.” But many seem so happy to hear from me and eager to use the “free help.” And then there are others who express interest even when they don’t have an obvious, immediate need that I can help out with; folks who fall in this group seem to understand my true desire to help and, in response, often get creative to identify project needs.
So, my experience this weekend fell into that final category. This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Alfredo Quarto of the Mangrove Action Project (MAP) – http://mangroveactionproject.org/. Alfredo started MAP in 1992 to help reverse the degradation and loss of mangrove forest wetlands and their associated coastal ecosystems worldwide. His staff (located in Port Angeles, Seattle, Thailand, and Indonesia) promote the rights of traditional and indigenous coastal people, including fishers and farmers, to sustainably manage their coastal environs. Once again, I feel fortunate to have learned about such amazing work (and now I know what a mangrove is! Do you?).
Now, even though MAP isn’t currently involved in any events or activities for which I could volunteer, that didn’t stop Alfredo from taking my request seriously, considering how we might connect, and realizing that I could help out…on his organic farm. So, on this beautifully sunny, Saturday morning, I found myself driving on the farm-lined roads in the shadow of the Olympics and out to the organic farm where Alfredo and his family live. After a lively welcoming from the farm’s two sweet dogs – Luna and Enok, I was immediately welcomed into Alfredo’s home and enchanted by his enthusiasm and energy. He talked miles a minute in describing how he came to learn about mangroves and how he’s spent a lifetime since trying to save and restore them. I had the pleasure of also meeting and talking with his wife and daughter, who each were instantly kind and warm and openly shared their stories and humor.
the view from the farm and….Enok!
After spending some time getting to know each other, Alfredo and I then ventured out to the farm to prune blueberry bushes. He’s got about 105 bushes, so it was just a start, but we had fun with it for a couple hours, chatting away about his former life as a Boeing engineer and Greenpeace activist, the joys of breaking away and doing what you love, and the operations of his organization and what they need to keep growing and doing important work. I met another resident who lives in a small house on Alfredo’s land and divides his time between Port Angeles and Victoria. He’s a writer for the Port of Call (http://portocallpublishing.com/), a local news source that aims to “to improve people’s lives, soften our impact on the increasingly delicate environment and thrive – together”…something that apparently has been missing from the community for a good while. And then after a couple hours of blueberry bush pruning, Alfredo showed me around the farm, where I met his chickens (28 of ’em!), Toulouse geese, ducks of all kinds, three sheep (from which Alfredo’s wife makes beautiful wool), all surrounded by growing raspberry bushes, grape vines, blackberry bushes, and apple trees.
the blueberry patch and one of the 28 chickens 🙂
I enjoyed my time on the farm immensely and look forward to returning over the course of this month to continue some projects, spend more time with Alfredo and family, and consider further how I can be of use to MAP beyond my month in town.
And again I’m amazed again by what can get started with a simple email and an open mind…
geese and their eggs!