One of the less glamorous realities of working in a small non-profit office lacking any cleaning service is finding a place to put your banana peel or apple core after lunch. Too many times have I returned to the office after a warm summer weekend to find a cloud of fruit flies hovering within my trash can.
Managing her leftover crusts, however, isn’t a problem that Jeannie Berwick, executive director of One Equal Heart Foundation, has to deal with anymore. As a part of her transition into an office space outside of her home, Jeannie missed the ease of tossing food waste in her home worm bin. Why not avoid the hassle of transporting food waste home or to the building “clean green” bin in the basement. Jeannie took a plastic sweater box, drilled some holes into it, and created an office worm bin discretely placed within her new workspace.
As Jeannie sees it, her worm bin is more than just a place to throw scraps—it is her field project connecting her with the cycle of life and the realities of the day-to-day work done by her partners in Chiapas, Mexico. Indeed, she is replicating an initiative started by her colleagues in Chiapas, where each staff member has a field project that gets them out of the office and into direct contact with diverse people and the issues defining their lives. While staff members may manage finances or write grant reports most of the time, some of the time they collaborate in the building of community gardens, manage bee hives, or lead trainings on the building of worm bins. Staff and the community they serve have regular opportunities to share one space, building relationships that unite them around a shared mission.
I wonder how the conversation about poverty alleviation would shift if each of us working within this sector had a field project that allowed us to share the same space—either physically or spiritually—with those living close to the earth. What would policies and practices look like if aid decision-makers regularly took an hour out of their work week to tend their worm bin or otherwise collaborate on a shared project with someone receiving aid. I imagine that better and more sustaining solutions would result.
You can see Jeannie’s worm bin for yourself – and learn more about One Equal Heart at their Open House being held on Wednesday, September 28th at their new offices on Capitol Hill in Seattle.