How novel to be together, scattered safely across Jean’s yard on Oly’s Westside, potting up perennials once again. It’s our annual plant sale to raise money for scholarships for students in our sister town of Santo Tomás, Chontales Nicaragua.
Every weekend from mid-March through April, masked volunteers will be chatting and digging, dividing, and potting up the promise of colorful spring and summer blooms. Avid gardeners and local farmers (shout out to Rising River Farm, Spring Creek Farm, and Common Ground Farm, among others) contribute to the diversity of plants available. Call 360-943-8642 (no texts) or write firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about volunteering your time, seedlings or plant divisions.
Twenty first-generation, low-income students have graduated from our program and found work in their chosen fields. A $500 annual scholarship allows each of 16 young Nicaraguans to continue in higher education in their country. They become professionals able to stay and build a stronger community.
Meet one of our current students, Dany Lazo
Hello, I’m Dany Lazo. I’m studying to be a high school social science teacher. I’m 20 years old and in my third year at the Martin Luther King Jr. University in Juigalpa, about 40 minutes away from Santo Tomás (ST) by bus. I enjoy my classes in philosophy, sociology, English, geography, and history. I read a lot about what’s going on in Nicaragua and around the world, and I think critically about the complexity of our situations. Pedagogy has been the most difficult of the subjects for me as I’ve not been exposed previously to theories about how young people learn. I am confident that I will grow into a good teacher, one who uses thoughtful strategies that take into consideration students’ distinct backgrounds and their individual and group needs.
I am from El Alto, a rural community outside of ST, where my father is a campesino who works hard on the farm of his patron. Our family has access to a plot of land we do not own to grow our annual subsistence crops of corn and beans, as well as root crops of yuca and quequisque, vines of ayote and other fruits and vegetables. My industrious mom buys fresh milk to make cuajada and bake rosquillas for sale in the Mercado Campesino in Santo Tomás every Sunday. She and I bring these delicious products to town on the local bus and then I help her with sales.
I dedicate quality time to my homework and know that I’m investing in my future and that of my family. I think I’ve inspired my little brother to dream big too. He wants to be a veterinarian. My older sister wasn’t able to pursue more education. There just weren’t any options for her at that time. The economy is not doing well and her husband has not been able to get steady work on local farms. Too few rural students are completing even basic education. I want to be part of changing that. After I graduate in another two years, I would like to return to my rural community to teach and inspire my students to reach for their dreams.
The Thurston-Santo Tomás Sister County Association is a non-profit community organization founded in 1988. It is entirely volunteer-run and relies on the support of this community to keep this exchange alive.
Our infrequent newsletters always include interviews with two or three of the university students. To donate directly, visit the TSTSCA Donations page.
How to order your plants
At 5pm on Thursday April 29 we’ll launch our online site for purchases through May 1 and May 2.
Email email@example.com to be placed on the list for an alert when the site goes live. $30 minimum purchase required: we will complete orders in the sequence received, select our best plants and box them up for free curbside pickup at specific times. You’ll also have the option of free delivery if: 1) you make a minimum purchase of $50 and 2) you live within 5 miles of the Westside. Order early to get the plants you want. Great prices, great gifts, great gardening, great cause!
Jean Eberhardt has lived in Olympia for 44 years(!) and, after participation in two volunteer construction brigades to Nicaragua, became a founding member of the TSTSCA, committing to this long standing relationship with Santo Tomás in 1989.