I don't know if it's just the write-up or the project itself, but I couldn't help it: My eyes rolled involuntarily while reading the below Utne summary of a Yes Magazine article … What drug addicts in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles need is… organic gardening?? And no, it's not just Me, Myself, and I tunnelvision; I've donated much time and enthusiasm to community activism and support over the years.
?I have yet to meet a drug addict who harvests his own drugs,? writes certified master gardner Anna Marie Carter in a recent Yes Magazine essay. ?All this madness is imported by the tons to this community?daily!? In addition to drug addiction, Watts is plagued with some of the country?s highest crime and welfare recipiency rates and is among the fastest-growing HIV-positive populations nationwide. The citizens of Watts don?t even have access to California-grown produce. As a result of free trade, their staples are imported from South America and Mexico, where DDT is commonly used. To heal the community, Carter founded the Watts Garden Club, a nonprofit organization that teaches organic gardening in the city?s housing projects, community centers, schools, treatment programs, mental health facilities and shelters. In addition, Carter plants free organic gardens for people who suffer from many illnesses, including cancer, HIV and AIDS.
Of course, that's the great thing about volunteerism: You and you alone (and maybe the people you're trying to help) are the only necessary judge of whether you're making a valuable contribution to the community.