Grace Garden hosted a Planting Workshop for 24 orphaned refugees from local orphanage, Blessed Home, over three consecutive Saturdays, June 29th, July 6th, and July 13th, 2013. This is the first workshop conducted entirely on-site using the newly finished learning center building. The center was designed and constructed by Gyaw Gyaw, a local natural construction non-profit, which works with and for migrant communities along the Thailand-Burma border. Gyaw Gyaw employs skilled Karen workers, many from here in Noh Bo Village, where Grace Garden is located. Groundbreaking for the learning center building began in January of this year and final touches were completed in June. Built from natural materials including abode and bamboo, the center is beautifully designed to be both functional and aesthetic while demonstrating the many benefits of natural buildings.
The Planting Workshop balanced classroom activities with hand-on learning opportunities and also involved a healthy dose of fun and games. The first weekend session introduced the importance of sustainability, comparing the sustainability of conventional farming methods and natural farming practices, and also included a module on agro-forestry principles. Students braved a downpour to explore the Grace Garden facility and witness the various sustainable technologies used on site.
In the second session, the students learned about soil enhancement including how to make and use compost, EM (effective microorganisms), and bio-char. After practicing by making a human compost pile in the classroom, participants prepared an actual compost pile. The students also got a chance to release their inner pyromaniac while making charcoal for bio-char.
The third session covered swales and their important role in water management and erosion control. The culminating activity, planting trees and vetiver grass along the swales, combined what the students had learned about agro-forestry, soil enhancement, and swales.
Nick’s Guide to Tree Planting:
1. Dig hole
2. Add bio-char
3. Add soil
4. Add bio-char
5. Add soil
6. Add EM
7. Gently pull plant out of potting bag, loosen roots, and place straight in hole
8. Add soil and biochar
9. Top with EM
As the first workshop held in the on-site learning center, the Blessed Homes Planting Workshop was a great success. Thank you, UNESCO and the Presbyterian Hunger Program for financially supporting both the construction of the learning center building and the workshop!