As a Muslim, I always had this innate desire to create change on a much larger scale. However, I wasn't brave enough to sign up for all the responsibilities that came with it. Fortunately, I benefited from an Islamic school education as a young girl as well as a STEAM education. Both of which shaped me into who I am today. My love for education stemmed off of the love and effort put in by my teachers to make my school experience hands-on and interesting. So to give back to the community, I decided to pick another Islamic school, empower their youth, and provide them a fruitful outlook to their curriculum: STEAM.
I decided that time wasn't going to stop for me, so I was going to have to do something to help at least one person in my community. I was tired of watching other role models take that first step and actually do something beneficial with their lives. Knowing well and good that my time here on earth is limited, I decided to literally just shoot my shot. And it was not easy.
I boldly emailed the board and took my shot by proposing a school-managed community garden. After a series of back and forth emails and meetings, I finally was able to pull through. Once they approved, there was no going back.
Now that I had two boards (the mosque and the school) waiting for my first move, I was really apprehensive. So I decided to create a team of people from both the school and the mosque and plan out what we were going to do. A little tidbit into the future, this plan changed drastically several times over the course of the project because of random obstacles and pressures from the community.
To say the least, it was tough. We moved the garden about three times and had to struggle a lot to get everyone motivated and on board with the project. There were definitely times where I decided that it may not work out and there was no point continuing. However, remembering my intention at the start of the project, I decided that God was judging me on my effort and that surely if my intention was pure, the project would be a success.
Budgeting, collecting volunteers, fighting with the mosque board, collecting funds, buying the wrong materials, and trying to communicate with teachers were just the beginning of the long, bumpy road that led to the final project.
After a while, though, we started to see that our plan was beginning to take more serious shape, and eventually, it allowed the community - in particular the board of the mosque - to pay more attention. We got more people involved and finally were able to complete the physical structure of the garden.
The students, on the other hand, were ecstatic all throughout the building of the garden. They started off in their classrooms learning and appreciating the beauty and intricate workings of plants.
Example of a 1st graders workEeman Uddin
They couldn't wait to start planting. At this stage of the project, we didn't have the garden up. However, we worked around it and created a temporary one.
So we made do with what we had an planted flowers, as well as built beds. Eeman Uddin
Then we were able to move the garden to another open area.
And then eventually due to safety concerns, we moved it to its final destination.
Finally, the students were able to get their hands dirty. It was interesting watching their eagerness slowly erode as they struggled to pull out the weeds. They quickly realized that it was no easy task and that gardening was more than a mixture of soil, water, and sun. Students began to realize that the work that goes behind the veggies and fruits they eat were substantial. After a while, the kids decided to take upon the challenge and slowly, but gradually, they began to forget about the mosquito bites and the dirt under their fingernails.
Getting dirty. media2.giphy.com
Pulling out the weeds! media0.giphy.com
And now we have a growing and maturing plants and kids (Alhamdulillah).
This may sound cliche, but this project truly changed something in me as well. I now realize what I am capable of, and I have also come to realize that laziness and fear only hold me back from taking the first step. Yes, it was and still is a lot of responsibility, but it was worth every second of it. The students have a new sense of self-awareness and appreciation for STEAM and the way it connects all aspects of their day-to-day life and secular education. The teachers and the community have in many ways become closer and more respectful of each other. However, I seriously can't take all the credit. I would like to thank God first and foremost and then Sr. Sumya Tariq, who literally gave it her all and will continue to maintain it well after (Inshallah).