From the plentiful plains of Argentina to the mountainous coffee-bean farms of Colombia, much of Latin America is known for its fertile soil and lush agricultural environments. The process of cultivating growth – preparing soil, planting seeds, caring for young plants as they develop roots, and harvesting – is woven into the fabric of the region and the work of International Child Care Ministries (ICCM) in Latin America.
For several years, the leaders of the kids’ club at the Luz y Vida Free Methodist Church have been developing a community garden in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Using the available resources (land/soil) located at the church in their neighborhood of Ferroviaria and drawing upon agricultural advice from Quito-based FMC missionary JR Crouse, this is no ordinary garden. With the support and involvement of Luz y Vida pastor José Rivadeneira, they committed themselves to including their community neighbors – with children as the emphasis – in their agrarian endeavors.
First, they prepared the available soil (weeding, enriching and creating hot and cold planting beds). Following this labor-intensive, timeconsuming step, they planted their first crops: cabbage, lettuce, radishes, carrots and beets. An open house was held for children and their families to become familiar with the project.
They organized groups of children to learn about plant care, practice their gardening skills, and make salads with the fruits (vegetables) of their labor. Over time, they have expanded the garden. They even created a guinea pig and rabbit hatchery. This project has provided a unique opportunity for partnership between the local church and ICCM’s work with a municipal agency in Quito that promotes organic urban agriculture. Every month, a specialist visits to offer advice on plant and soil care.
This collaborative project – known as Nuevo Eden (“New Eden”) – carries multifaceted goals; many goals center around benefiting children. Luz y Vida kids’ club leaders Jazmín Rivadeneira and Graciela Armijos explain, Our project goals have been to nurture all the children who attend our congregation – to teach their mothers the nutritional value of these products and to teach cooking classes with different options than what they have now.”
They hope to make the garden a sustainable source of produce and additional income. Selling organic, chemical-free produce to support needy children and families in their community would be a dream fulfilled. New Eden meets physical and educational needs in wonderful ways, yet the
seeds planted through ICCM’s work extend far beyond vegetables.