In keeping with its organic nature, the task of building the garden has been much greater than simply digging, planting or constructing….it has been about creating community within the school and outside its boundaries, about seeing and making connections between books and the garden, about quiet understated financial help from the outside world, yet active vibrant and willing help from within. Mostly it has been about understanding the workings, the mindset, the strengths and the weaknesses of the school community. My one year in Shigar implementing the garden plans as they were designed in 2011, ended in early Nov 2013, yet the design process continues to amorphously expand or shrink and take its own organic from.
I would have liked to involve the Siankhore community where the school is physically located, in much greater depth than simply building spaces and labour. However that did not come to pass, and I continue to consider long term effective ways of making the school become both a part of its environment and its neighbors. Perhaps an endowment fund needs to be established so the children of Siankhore are also able to attend the Abruzzi school based on merit, or perhaps develop a work/school program where the families of the children give of their time and expertise in lieu of a free education for their children. In some fashion the boys and girls of Siankhore must benefit from this school, or the ownership and development of the garden will be a much harder task than it already is.
The summer months saw a larger pool of volunteers than the previous three years, albeit their time could have been used much more effectively than I was able to manage. With their engagement, the students came away by and large with a basic understanding of how to map a plot plan, thanks in large measure to three of the six, Indus Valley School of Art students Insia, Rija and Hussain who put in alot of time in making that happen.
The year also saw a string of visitors to the garden, mostly guests at the Shigar Fort Residence, but also the schools corporate donors, Chevron Pakistan’s Mr. Nadeem Jaffery and his team, Computer Connections Mr. Sohail Amir Khan, the schools builders AKCSP, and the likes of Dr. Atiya Inayatullah and Mr. Shoaib Sultan Khan, among many other curious visitors to this first school garden program in Northern Pakistan.
A small orchard, an outdoor classroom space and fire pit, the lawn, the cricket pitch, the terracing and permeable paving, three ramps, the running track, the boundary wall and gates, all got completed in 2013. There is lots more to be done – a kitchen classroom, a cafeteria, a rock climbing wall, vegetable planting area, more fruit and shade trees, a green house and tool shed and a pond, all need to be constructed. But more than the physical spaces, learning by engaging the grounds needs to begin in earnest, and towards that end I hope to conduct teacher training sessions this summer to help expand the program more effectively.
Thank you all for making 2013 a great success. Here’s to digging our hands in the dirt once again, helping to grow this garden in leaps and bounds in 2014!