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A simple and innovative citizen initiative that speaks to the hearts of the people
“True happiness costs little; if it is expensive, it is not of a superior kind.” (François-René de Chateaubriand)
President John Forsythe, brought up in the Irish countryside among moors, forests and lakes, was seduced by the project of citizen vegetable gardens. They consist in little farms that stimulate sharing and living together and were supported by a group of schools and by the well-received association “European League of Optimists”, whose founder, Luc Simonet, was also praised by the European Government.
This fantastic association had the idea of launching a campaign to raise the awareness of all town halls and mayors of the European territory.
Realizing that the Public Centres for Social Welfare and the social services agencies were flooded with demands of people that lacks job security, that children had less and less points of reference, were more stressed and ate less healthy, and that several people who reached their retirement age started feeling useless, the European League of Optimists suggested that it was time for local realities to take action. Indeed, they suggested that local municipalities should provide for the creation and the upkeep of local vegetable gardens on unused municipal soil, where the elders could go and teach and primary school students could learn.
This initiative presented many advantages for the children, such as:
– Inner security: a child who has learnt how to create and maintain a vegetable garden holds the inner security that he will never go hungry.
– Pride: a child who has learnt how to create and maintain a vegetable garden lives with the pride of being capable of offering help, although modest, to meet his/her family’s needs.
– Responsibility: a child who has learnt how to create and maintain a vegetable garden knows that he/she has to take care of what he/she loves every day.
– Entrepreneuriali spirit: a child who has learnt how to create and maintain a vegetable garden knows that he/she can create something important simply through his/her work.
– Vision: a child who has learnt how to create and maintain a vegetable garden has learnt to create something important starting from nothing and to project himself into the future.
– Attachment: a child who has learnt how to create and maintain a vegetable garden has learnt how to attach himself/herself to his/her environment and how to create a very peculiar link to his social environment
– Food and respect: a child who has learnt how to create and maintain a vegetable garden has learnt how to love vegetables and how to eat healthy. He/she has also learnt to respect his/her health and himself/herself.
– Love and gratitude: a child who has learnt how to create and maintain a vegetable garden has unconsciously learnt how to meditate and enter a relationship of love and gratitude with his/her community…
For the retired elders, the advantages were just as numerous:
– Usefulness and esteem: the retired person that has learnt to create and maintain a vegetable garden and to teach it to children can regain the meaning of his/her life.
– Maintaining a young spirit, developing the transmission of knowledge and emotional bonds
Our President had decided to fight for this cause because he considered the citizens vegetable gardens as a place for learning, discover, wonder and engagement.
He wanted that every child that completes primary school to be able to create and maintain a vegetable garden, after one day a child told him that “the little children discover that the little seeds goes along to become a vegetable”.
All at once, our President understood that these pilot experiments can lead to new social links otherwise not present inside the school.
Through this initiative, John Forsythe wanted to connect people with each other and create links to help them find their roots and their openness to the other.
Eventually, little by little, these spaces for the production of vegetables, these collective citizen vegetable gardens previously considered as ordinary, have been considered as places for social interaction, transmission of knowledge and mutual aid of utmost importance at the highest levels of the European bodies.
But this is the beginning of another local democratic story that the European Federation has decided to promote, picking up the initiative of Stand Up for Europe, the story of the city-teams that shaped our new European federation which we will develop in another article.
We will do it!