By Jesenia Hernandez, Program Assistant, Vista Hermosa Foundation
A year ago, schools across the world were asked to close their doors to help contain the spread of COVID-19. Teachers and staff at Nueva Esperanza Leadership Academy (NELA) creatively thought of ways to continue to help students connect to self, God, family, and nature. Mrs. Beck recalls mailing marigold seeds to students and receiving photos throughout the summer of them and their families with marigold gardens. “To have a blessing like that in such a difficult time was beautiful,” she says.
This year, we continue to navigate the COVID-19 crisis amidst a much larger and complex issue, the exploitation of planet earth. Students at NELA are engaged in Earth Day conversations and activities, such as creating posters to spread awareness and creating art out of everyday garbage (cans, toilet paper rolls, paper, etc.). However, the calling to be a good steward goes beyond a single day. “I feel happy that Earth Day is coming up because I get to show my appreciation for the Earth not just on that day but every day,” said Natalie (5th grade).
While the students grow as servant leaders, they are challenged to serve their community and take ownership of the land they share with others. Together, they walk around the Tierra Vida play area and pick up trash for all children to enjoy a safe and clean place to play. With excitement, sometimes they put on their gloves, split into teams, and race to fill their cans faster or with the most intriguing garbage! After reflecting on trash cleanup, William (5th grade) shared with us, “I love helping the Earth. Every day after Bible study I feel like God would be here next to us listening.”
Fostering a community garden is also on their horizon. Soon, the seeds they sowed this winter will be transferred from containers to garden beds. Like the marigolds that brought joy in difficult times, NELA staff believes that the fruit and vegetables students nurture will strengthen relationships between the world we can see—our family, nature, and friends—and the spiritual world—God and our inner selves. The act of growing from seedling to harvest brings pride and joy, especially when the garden is fruitful enough to share with others and nourishing to the planet God trusted us with.
“We get to help the environment,” said Scott (6th grade). “My dad works in the farm and I feel pretty happy about it. I love nature, wild animals and beautiful flowers. I love the spring because the flowers start blooming. I feel connected with God because He created the Earth for us, He created us. He made the plants and animals. He made us a beautiful world to live in.”