From a small beginning…
In 2014, Anjali outgrew its old space and moved to a new location to accommodate more students. The new site was a former crocodile farm, offering more spaces for classrooms and staff offices. Behind the building was an untouched acre of wasteland which no one paid any attention to. However, two years later, Anjali welcomed a new long term volunteer, Annie, who decided to fundraise to turn this area into a productive space.
From this wild land, our organic garden became a place where winter melon, eggplant, herbs, morning glory and many more plants could flourish. We created a beautiful, sustainable, organic garden that helped feed 120 children every day for four years. Thanks to one of our sponsors, Green Shoots, an agricultural company called CIDO provided a 10 week course of organic lessons for our young adults, and trained them to pass on their knowledge to younger students.
Because of these successes, and seeing how much our students benefited from the garden, we decided to include gardening classes in the Anjali curriculum. Over the years, we have made many changes and improved our gardening techniques. Our former little jungle is now a successful educational garden.
… Toward a sustainable and eco-friendly garden!
Creativity and inquiry are critical skills for students to succeed in university and their careers, which is why we nurture each of our children’s curiosity and knowledge. The garden is one way we foster a love of learning and exploration in our students.
Every age group has one hour of formal gardening class each week. They learn about each plant and how to tend and care for it. The children also help our volunteers during their free time to water, weed, and harvest. Learning these skills now will allow them to grow their own food in the future.
All our gardening classes are taught in English, so that they are fully integrated in our educational program and build on our students’ English skills. We also encourage our young adults to take on more responsibility over specific sections of the garden, or help with teaching younger children. Through all of these activities, the garden teaches our students leadership, teamwork, responsibility, accountability, and respect for nature. Besides all of that, the children love to come to the garden and see how the seeds they planted have grown!
Our goal is for the garden to be 100% environmentally and financially sustainable. We have worked hard to be as ecological as possible, in part by making our own organic compost, fertilizers, and pesticides. We save leftover food, garden waste, and coffee grounds from local businesses to use in our compost. The Anjali garden is almost plastic-free: the only plastic you’ll find in the garden is repurposed water bottles which now serve as seeding beds!
To pursue financial sustainability, we grow many sponges which turn into loofahs. These loofahs replaced the synthetic sponges Anjali used to wash dishes and do general cleaning. We also sell them to eco-friendly businesses in Siem Reap, like Babel Guesthouse, to be used as bath products. With the end of our food program in 2019, we no longer need to use our produce at Anjali. Parts of the garden are now dedicated to growing organic herbs and vegetables which are sold to environmentally conscious cafes and restaurants like Tevy’s Place. We reinvest the funds from these partnerships into the garden so that it is self-sustaining.
In the future…
Over the past four years, our garden has evolved in many ways. Despite our successes, we still have much work to do to keep it sustainable and meaningful for our educational program. While the profits from selling our products can support our basic maintenance and activities, they are not enough to make future improvements.
With more support, we hope to add raised beds that will protect our plants from flooding during the rainy season. The raised beds require expensive treated timber. We would also like to plant more banana trees, which would be very profitable in the future, buy good soil to improve the quality of some areas in the garden, and invest in new tools that will make the garden more productive and make it easier for our students to be involved. Thanks to supporters like you, this wonderful place can continue to exist and become an even more wonderful educational tool for our students.