For me, “Community” is a critical part of the Sustainable Living formula; so much so that it is the fourth pillar in our Camp 4 our Sustainable Living approach (which, for those who are curious, all four pillars are Food, Water, Shelter, Community). We feel blessed everyday to live in a wonderful island community but it is easy to forget that not every part of the world is just like it is here so we are stretching our idea of community beyond “the local” to “the global”. And to widen this lens of community, I am thrilled to be traveling to Vietnam with PeaceTrees Vietnam.
About 6 months ago, I was introduced to fellow islander, and now dear friend, Jerilyn Brusseau. Almost 18 years ago, Jerilyn started Peace Trees VietNam, an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) that was founded “to renew relationships with the people of Vietnam and promote a safe, healthy future for its families & children (by) sponsoring demining and mine risk education, survivor assistance, citizen diplomacy trips and community building projects in partnership with the people of Quang Tri Province”.
In March, I will be joining her along a handful of other islanders, on a journey to Vietnam to see this organization in action and specifically to break ground on a new school in the village of Khe Sanh. To learn more about how and why Peace Trees VietNam got started and all the wonderful work this organization does, watch this Tedx Talk (warning: you may need a box of tissues).
For me, this will be a multi-dimensional journey to be viewed through the different lenses of my life.
Over a two week period, we will travel from Ho Chi Minh city to Hanoi and will be in some of the most rural and still, almost fifty years later, war-torn areas of the world. Until recently, I did not realize how much the daily lives of the Vietnamese are still affected by the Vietnam War. There were more land mines and ordinance dropped on Vietnam than in World War II, the Korean War, and the Iraq Wars combined. Experts estimate that between 12-18% of these did not explode on impact and still pose a major threat to the Vietnamese. Imagine not being able to go for a walk in the woods, or retrieve a ball that has gone off the road, without fear of detonating one of these mines. This is a fear that the Vietnamese live with daily.
Regardless of your political view of the Vietnam War, “no one on either side (of the Vietnam War) expected that fifty years later children would be getting killed by these weapons” (paraphrased statement from a Retired U.S. Marine that served in Vietnam). So even though the war had ended by the time I was born, it will be only natural to be effected by, and view this experience through, the lens of the post-war humanitarian effort.
The second lens, will be one of a farmer working with fellow farmers. As someone who works the land, I look forward to connecting with the agriculture of the area and getting soil under my nails. Not only will we be planting trees in areas that have been safely cleared of land mines and un-exploded ordnance, but I want to explore solutions to bring fully vertically-intergrated and sustainable agriculture to the area. Vietnam is a wonderful area to grow coffee, cocoa, cashews and other important agricultural product. Opportunities exist to assist the Vietnamese in establishing there own family food gardens, but also create a new economy for the villages.
The third, and I am sure not final, lens will be one of exploring the food and culinary creations of this land. From my personal love of Pho, to all the on-trend flavors and formats (Vietnamese coffee, bubble tea, etc), I am looking forward to eating everything I can. If you are interested in following this lens in particular, please make sure to check out the blog posts on Idea Flash, my Food & Beverage Innovation Blog.
The adventure starts on March 4th so please check back to follow the journey and learn more about the community called “Earth”.
- Kate Ruffing, Chief Farming Officer, Camp 4, Bainbridge Island