It is with great pleasure that we announce the Belize Scholarship Winner, Banesa! Banesa blew us away with her essay, providing a raw and honest look into her life and sharing what she hopes to gain from an unplugged retreat in Belize. We wanted to take this week to feature Banesa so you, too, can learn her story and hear about all the amazing things she is doing in this world.

Here is Banesa’s essay submission that we received:

Up until this last weekend, my whys for attending this Belize retreat came from sorrow, loneliness, poor health (mind, spirit, body).

I have stopped dancing, being spontaneous, meditating, reading books, visiting friends. Phones and T.V. have taken too much space in our home leading to bouts of anxiety and angry outbursts from me.

What I hope to gain is my voice and strength to request time for myself. I hope to gain a better understanding of what self-care really means and learn strategies/methods of self-care. I hope to gain new friendships and encouragers as well as become an encourager to others on the same path.

My whys stand in validity today but my perspective has changed. I choose to take control of my sadness, of my overly exhausted body and mind. By taking a few moments a day to be still, practice gratitude and do a little of what matters to me each time. I choose to take on fewer to-dos, although I wish I were, I am not superhuman (that would be rad). I know that by doing so I am the best form of myself for my children, my husband, all I come in contact with and even myself.

I love travel, I love culture, I enjoy unplugging to heal. Attending this retreat with a friend would be a special gift! Thank you for considering my application.

Much Love,

Banesa

Banesa was born in Oregon, but established roots in Idaho as a teenager. Raised by a single parent meant lots of moving around and learning independence at a young age. This independence led to discovering her power and love in interpersonal skills.

In 2013, Banesa took a job with Dutch Bros. Coffee. As a result of showcasing exemplary customer service, she was featured on the American television series Undercover Boss. Due to the generosity of Travis Boersma (Dutch Bros. Coffee CEO), her dream of owning and directing a community garden was realized.

In 2009, Banesa started a family of her own. She gave birth to a sweet baby boy with Down Syndrome. Since then she has devoted herself to advocating for his developmental growth and integration at each transitional stage of life.

With a passion for the Culinary Arts, she now caters and cooks as a personal chef. This has given her the opportunity to grow her knowledge of food preparation and nutrition. She feels this knowledge is quite important to our overall development as humans.

All things Banesa does with the humblest and kindest of thoughts and emotions. She hopes to inspire, continue teaching, and sharing her skills with others so they may also reach their greatest potential.

We asked Banesa a few questions for you to get to know her better.

1. When did the garden become active?

UCCG became active in 2014 when our first attempt was made on a borrowed piece of land. In 2015 I purchased a one acre property. Time has been spent building garden boxes, setting up trellises, amending soil, adding irrigation systems, creating a compost system and establishing perennials edibles. Along with studying and implementing permaculture practices.

“Our mission is to develop a beautiful and nurturing space where individuals, families and groups may grow nutritious, organic vegetables and fruit.” -Banesa

2. What inspired you to start a community garden? When did you first start gardening?

My momma has been the inspiration for the whole project. As long as I can remember my mom has tended beautiful, bountiful gardens. Her love for gardening came from a need to feed her family. She learned the importance and skill of sustainability from her father and I from her. Both my mom and grandfather (now resting in peace) diligently displayed, continues to display acts of kindness to strangers and asks nothing in return. Their devotion to humanity, mother earth and self sustainability inspired me to build a community garden. I mostly wanted to replicate this for my children while simultaneously sharing it with others. A place of learning, growing nourishing food, community and safety. It wasn’t until the idea grew in my heart and mind (in 2012-13) that I started gardening. That year I grew a few things (tomatoes, kale, peppers) in my quaint apartment backyard already stocked with three overgrown fruit trees.

3. What is the size of the garden and what are you growing currently?

We are currently on about an acre property with close to a third being garden space. I grow all varieties of salad greens (kale, spinach, lettuce, chard), cruciferous vegetables, winter and summer squashes, tomatoes galore, peppers, melons, pumpkins, culinary and medicinal herbs, edible and ornamental flowers, 6 varieties of berries and 8 fruit trees.

4. What do you do with the bounty?

A lot of the bounty gets enjoyed by my family, shared with friends, family, volunteers. Some of it is delivered to elderly and sick friends, local Salvation army, teachers. Some is sold to help sustain our family and the project (supplies and equipment are purchased). Some is preserved for seed, canned, frozen to use the same as above. I will make donation baskets with canned goodies and donate to school or other local fundraisers.

5. How exactly is the community garden serving your community?

I feel that UCCG is serving our community by being a space of inspiration and encouragement. At the moment we don’t have many people that participate regularly. I get it, it is hard work, dedicated work. But for those that do come out leave filled with joy, knowledge and inspiration to create healthy habits. Many community members reach out for guidence on their own gardens. It has taken lots of prayer and time to figure out where my focus would be as community gardens have many platforms. This year my heart has been called by children to young adults. As I move forward I will implement a youth garden program for appropriate ages. Coming up this month we will be hosting a Halloween Teen dance night in hopes of facilitating trust and rapport.

6. Where do you see the Undercover Community Garden in 10 years?

Oh goodness, 10 years from now I see UCCG an Eden for all ages. A magical place to host mindful seminars, sustainability classes, farm to fork dinners and more. Along with having a healthy network of other community gardens, a well established youth program and helping others do the same.

Be well, friends. Thank you for reading!

XOXO,

Your wellness team

“I feel most people just want to be heard, they need to express their hurt, they want someone to share in their successes. My hope is to leave my little corner of the world a bit better than it was before and to inspire others to do the same all through the name of love and kindness!” -Banesa

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