Public Service Spotlight: Wilson Hammett and Kaye Lee Thomas | UVA Student Council

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This week spotlight shines on two fourth years, Wilson Hammett and Kaye Lee Thomas, who worked this summer with a program called “Green My Favela.” The pair spent eight weeks in Rio De Janiero, Brazil working in one of the cities largest slums to build community gardens.

“I was really struck by how excited the community was that we’d started the project and how eager people were to keep it going,” said Hammett. “It was a trash heap when we started, and local guys had the idea to start making the terraces out of the rubble from the destroyed buildings.”

Other members of the community contributed by using their skills and past experience to add to the project, building mosaics out of tile and rubble or working directly to cultivate the garden.

“A lot of local people just started stopping by and then never stopped, and since most favela residents moved from small farming communities within the last few generations, most of the people who worked with us were excited to finally get to use their gardening/farming knowledge that they’d left behind in their villages,” said Hammett.

Community involvement was a key emphasis of the project. With a focus on creating a lasting impact, their work in Brazil was equally about education as it was construction of these green spaces.

“We worked in designing, physically landscaping, and planting.  However, we also got to work on educating the community and on getting people involved and invested in the project,” said Hammett. “Not long after we left the project was almost completely community-run, and now there are education programs from a nearby school in conjunction with the garden.”

As of now, the organization has created several small community gardens to improve food security, build community relations, and provide a connection with nature in a very overcrowded and polluted area. For more information please contact Wilson at whh8nc@virginia.edu.

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