In Early January Levo Founder, Christian Heiden, visited his grade school Alma Mater, St. Mary’s School in Simsbury, Connecticut, to share his experiences in Haiti and to help them understand both hydroponics and the importance of living out Catholic social teaching.
I attended the third grade at St. Mary’s, and remembering how I was in third grade, I was concerned that I would struggle to hold their attention. Walking into the classroom with the principal of St. Mary’s, Margaret Williamson, I found the class attentive very capable.
Standing in front of the two grades, I flipped through my slides of pictures and basic information. Beginning with asking questions about farming and plant physiology, very happily I discovered that their teacher, Sister Mary Kolbe, taught them all the basics, which allowed me to better explain the difference between traditional growing and the hydroponic method. I explained how water is pumped up and drained through the systems, allowing the plants roots to have access to both water and the perfect amount of nutrients. I explained how hydroponics recycles water, and saves far more than traditional farming. Students would periodically ask me questions, asking for more in depth explanation of the systems.
Pulling up pictures of the map of Haiti, I explained its location and brief history. Going into the poverty, I pulled up pictures of our trips from the past couple summers, showing the students as accurate a depiction of the poverty and need of Haiti as I could. I showed them our Babylon system, and explained how it worked, and how it could help the arid climate of the small island nation. After finishing my explanations of the science and the need of the Haitian communities, I began to explain how important it is as Catholics to perform Social Justice. As I talked I remembered the day that my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Walsh, had his son visit, very much like I was, to talk to us about his work in a Ghana orphanage. It was on that day I decided I wanted to work in developing countries.
I spoke to the students about scripture, particularly the Gospels. Usually scripture is not what you go to when you talk to second and third graders, but it was a simple message. Many Catholics, and Christians in this world will focus on issues that Jesus never talked about. I explained that these issues were insignificant. Jesus mentions the poor and justice for the downtrodden constantly. There is a reason to that I explained to the elementary schoolers. We have a duty to the poor and disadvantaged in society. We focus on the wrong issues. It is the poor who we should be focusing on, building a more just and equal world for our brothers and sisters. I was hopeful, as I looked around at their attentive faces, that my message was getting through.
Afterwards I fielded a variety of questions, some about Levo, others about my experiences in Haiti, and general questions on hydroponics and Haiti. I am thankful for St. Mary’s allowing me to come speak, and I am hopeful I will be able to return and speak to the remaining students at St. Mary’s.