By Nguyen Hue Phuong – Vietnam

I started to write my blog at the midnight after a special dinner with my host family and the final show of The Voice 2015. Time flies so fast and it is the last day to live with my dear host family.

I am very lucky (as Kelsey mentioned in the introduction email) to live with Vickie and her family in a cozy house near the Missoula’ downtown. Vickie is a retired development officer for the University of Montana Foundation, and her husband Marty is a retired bank loan officer. Her daughter (Katie) is working for Garden City Harvest as a Farm to School Coordinator. They are very kindness and supportive to give me a lot of opportunities to explore USA life style. We had many happy memories such as: hiking at the Holland Lake, cooking meals together (USA and Vietnamese dishes), watching the TV show and singing favorite USA songs… They also gave me an opportunity to talk with their friends to share our culture as well as the relationship between Vietnam and USA during our dinner time. I greatly appreciate their warm hospitality and I will bring all memories to share with my family, friends in Vietnam for understanding the real USA life style.

From May 4th, I started to work with my coordinator to explore the Farm to School program for children in Missoula. Jason Mandala- my coordinator is a Farm to School Director of Garden City Harvest. This organization is a local NGO in Missoula. Their mission is to build community through agriculture by growing produce with and for people with low incomes, offering education and training in ecologically conscious agriculture, and using their sites for the personal restoration of youth and adults.

The Garden City Harvest Farm to School program encourages youth to explore connections between food, agriculture, science, and their everyday lives including: Educational field trips, School Garden and Farmer in the Classroom. With my expectations, Jason gave me a chance to work with him in School Garden program. Our team has four people (Jason, Katie, Amy and I). We have two busy weeks to start our new garden for the summer season at 7 schools in Missoula. I supported them to deliver our door lessons for children from grade K-5. All their lessons are very creative, hands on and experiential learning to inspire children to respect our nature, plant their own vegetable and love to eat vegetable. Besides, they integrated many good skills (team work, problem solving…) for children to practice. Almost children were very excited to learn and take action at the School Garden and they also become our ambassador to spread out our message to their parents, neighbourhood. It is the effective way to engage more people to develop community garden in Missoula.

Besides delivering lesson, we also spent time to prepare seeds, baby plants, water system and composting in our school gardens. I love to dig in the soil and put the baby strawberry plants as well as learn the English name of plants ( kale, zucchini, fingerling potatoes…) with our team. I also love our lunch time to share our experiences and give feedback to improve our lesson.

Working with this team, they inspired me with their passion of working on sustainable agriculture, their love for Missoula community and they poured their heart and soul into their work with positive energy. 12 days working is such a short time but effectively because they gave me more energy, motivation and believe in our way to educate our future generation with sustainable life style. I would like to say thank you to YSEALI and the Mansfield Center to provide me a good match with my fellow coordinator and this journey has just begun because we will continue to work together to develop and share our educational program in our own country in long term vision.



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