I enjoyed working with the New Roots crew 😉 this semester. I was very excited in the beginning to meet refugees in the area and learn all about their experiences. It was all very new to me. I was not even aware of the large refugee population in the community, prior to taking this class. I enjoyed going to visit the IRC and hearing the young man talk to us (I forget his name) who was very bright and friendly. Some of the frustrations for me for the New Roots garden were ones my group felt as a whole; the lack of clear communication with leadership on campus, the slow moving of things. We felt kind of helpless as we were taking on this project with very little support it seemed from the UMBC community. There were things we could have done differently I’m sure, and of course many more things we could have done if we had had more time to accomplish them.
I learned a little about the complicated bureaucracy of universities, I’m still mostly oblivious to it. I also felt guilty a lot that Rosa took on the brunt of the responsibilities for the project and I wish I could have been more helpful a lot of the time. We, as a group, did not expect that with our thorough communication to one member of the campus staff, we ended up needing approval from a completely different member which took us for a spin and a lot of frustration and time lost. Although I shared joy in the achievements of my classmates, at the same time it was hard to see other projects in the class doing well. Some projects were making lots of progress with seemingly little to no obstacles, while our project on which we were putting equal amounts of time and effort were getting us nowhere.
The advice I have for students coming to work on the New Roots campus garden after me is first and foremost to have patience. It may not all work out the way you planned it and your timeline may get completely obliterated and you may run into a million obstacles you didn’t expect. But don’t lose hope and stay patient. And if you get to the end product, it may be more amazing than you imagined. And even if you fail, you can always take learning opportunities from that experience.
My concept of “Food Justice” has pretty much stayed the same since the start of the semester. I have been aware that food is the great equalizer, as all of us need it to survive. However food distribution and availability is extremely unjust and it ties to social, racial, and political roots. Through the trips, the speakers, the readings, the projects my knowledge on food justice has expanded but, ultimately, has remained the same.
Even though me and my group did not start a New Roots Garden on campus this semester, I feel proud of my group and I am proud that I was part of the experience. And one day, hopefully, I can say that my group was one of the classes that laid the foundation for the UMBC Refugee Garden.