By Maria Alejandra Fernandez Quesada, 2013 Global Partners: Running Waters Scholarship Recipient

Alejandra, in partnership with Proyecto Asis in Costa Rica, was awarded the Global Partners: Running Waters Scholarship to participate in the Greenheart Volunteer Homestay Program for 3 weeks this summer. Alejandra reflected about her volunteer experience in Milwaukee, WI.

I made the decision to compete for the scholarship that Global Partners Running Waters gave to my high school, because it was the perfect opportunity to learn more knowledge on agribusiness and agricultural matters.

One of the conditions of the scholarship was that I had to do volunteering. The name of the company in which I worked for two weeks is “Growing Power“. Growing Power is a nonprofit company. At Growing Power people realize that they can grow food in an easy and economical way.

Among the projects that can be observed in Growing Power are: aquaponics systems, compost, vermicompost, laying hens, goats … Besides that, Growing Power sells its products in several markets in multiple communities of Milwaukee they also provides food stores with some of their products.

At a local farmers market in Milwaukee , Alejandra sells chemical-free products raised with sustainable practices.

At a local farmers market in Milwaukee , Alejandra sells chemical-free products raised with sustainable practices.

In my High School, we have all those projects that Growing Power offers except the aquaponics systems (they were the ones in which I focused the most.)

Aquaponics systems are a way to produce fish and plants at the same time and place, people use the fish waist to fertilize the plants. These kinds of systems are not very common in Costa Rica and that is why (with all the knowledge that I learned these 3 weeks, the help of my teachers and the people from Growing Power who gave me their e-mail) we are going to start a small aquaponic system back in my High School, if this small project goes well then we will make it bigger!

The aspect that impresses me most about the people who live in the United States, is the time that they spend working (whether in public, nonprofit or private companies.) This is something that gets a lot my attention because even working a lot, they always find enough time to devote to his family and friends.

In general about the United States, I think this is a country considered as a world power and that can be deduced from the technology that is used day to day by its residents. It is an advantage that countries like USA support little or moderately developed nations, such as Costa Rica and many others from other continents.

About the program, the thing that I enjoyed the most was to learn more knowledge about aquaponics industry, because in Costa Rica these systems are unknown to the people who live there.

Alejandra at her volunteer site, Growing Power, Inc.

Alejandra at her volunteer site, Growing Power, Inc.

Being away from my country and practice another language (English in this case) has made me learn more about this language and the U.S. Culture.  On the other hand, I enjoy visiting another city that is very different from mine and make my first flight alone is definitely something that I will never forget!

One of the things that I will never forget was the unexpectedly meeting with Will Allen, founder of the company where I did volunteering. Mr. Allen is a nice person and someone who has learned a lot over the years in which he has worked as a farmer. With Mr. Allen I learned many tips that will help me in the future.

The biggest challenge was to face my fears; to be all alone in another country away from the people that I love most is not easy. However that did not stop me to continue enjoying this trip, which is an opportunity that not many people can have.

During my stay with my host mom, a new student came to live at our house. Her name is Omurkan Sabyrjan and she comes from Asia. When we first met it was hard for both of us to understand the accent of each other, but over the days we begin to relate better. I learned a little bit about Asian culture, which is something new for me and I enjoy it a lot.

I appreciate the fact that Global Partners gave me this scholarship. My high school and I are very thankful for it, this is the beginning of something that will grow up very fast and I am glad for the fact that I helped with it.

I would like to thank to Proyecto Asis, the organization that assisted me with everything about getting the information for the trip and just for being there whenever I needed.

And last but not least, I would like to thank to CCI Greenheart. This was the second time that I had traveled through CCI Greenheart and this time was perfect, just as my first trip with them.

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