Thursday, May 24, 2012

Week 1 site visits

(The chief blogger is a little behind, and she apologizes for serving you week-old information. All this will change once the students arrive to Budapest, get settled, and get to blogging)

During the first week of the 2012 program we visited two small, but very efficient and high-impact organizations: The Burundi Women's Farm in Avondale, part of the Global Growers Network (GGN), and Recycletronics, a Tommy Nobis Center project.

At the Umurima Wa Burundi Robin, project manager for GGN, gave us a tour of the neatly kept garden, where plants are rotated often under the expert leadership of the refugee women who work here. The manage the farm on their own. They work here to be more independent - as they come from a male dominated culture, where traditionally the husband are sole income generators. The garden also gives them the much needed feeling of  familiarity with a pastoral setting that all of them belonged to before having to flee their homes, and then arrive to a foreign country that while it gave them all the wonderful opportunities to start over and be safe, it did not look and feel like anything they were used to back home. The fact that these women brought seeds of their staple plants with them all the way from Burundi, when they were allowed to grab only so few things at the time of immigration, goes to show the importance of being connected to the earth, to farming, as the only lifestyle they knew.

The GGN site gives back that connection to nature that these women lost with so many other things when they became refugees, and by doing so it restores their dignity, supports their quest for independence, and helps them transition to a culture very different from theirs.

Next we visited the organization that was named after Atlanta Falcons All Pro Linebacker and long time humanitarian, Tommy Nobis, who is still very involved with the board and participates in all the family activities of the Center that he gave his name to 35 years ago.
Recycletronics is the flagship employment creation program at Tommy Nobis Works, and it operates as a for profit entity that uses it's profits to support the work  and programs of the foundations. Their mission is to provide jobs to the most disadvantaged groups, those with disabilities, those with criminal records and other similar groups.

The plant in itself is fascinating - seeing a TV, or an industrial sized printer, being taken into pieces and then shredded into small bits is a treat even for the less technologically inclined (yours truly). We learned some very interesting facts about the shortcomings of product design, from Joe Burum, our very cool guide at Recycletronics, and found out that keeping impact measurement simple is the preferred alternative to more sophisticated metrics that would be costly to develop and to implement.

Retired electronics before the monster shredder:

And after:

We closed an exciting first week with young alum, and devoted social entrepreneur, Andrew Foote's presentation about his solar latrines project he just spent eight months testing in Chile. Sanivation was one of the Ideas to Serve Competition's winners this year.

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