As some of you know, a few of my Board of Directors and great friends of the Marion Institute and myself were planning to go to Haiti on Saturday (four days after the dreadful earthquake) with a delegation by the amazing nonprofit called Fonkoze. What a mind bender when I was heading to a meeting on Tuesday night and heard of the enormous catastrophe! The hotel we were supposed to stay at entirely collapsed and the devastation that we felt in our hearts for the Haitians was and still is immeasurable.
I ask one thing of you only, please send positive energy, intentions, hope, love and light from your hearts to the people of Haiti. Let the Haitians live in your heart.
Many of you have asked me what organizations the Marion Institute supports in Haiti - the two that we love and trust are Partners in Health and Fonkoze. They have both been represented at our Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change conference and we love them dearly. They are our true heroes and we are humbled by all they are doing in Haiti right now.
If you want to make a donation to either of these organizations follow the respective links.
In addition, the Project Leader of our Batey Hope Serendipity Project, is in the Dominican Republic giving aid to the Haitians that have been sent to the Dominican Republic for medical treatment. To donate to this effort, please click below - 100% of the donation will go to these Haitian people that have been displaced to the Dominican Republic because of the earthquake.
Also, please view this powerful video from a past Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change speaker, Dr. Mark Hyman, in this 60 minutes interview. He, along with his wife, Pierre, are down in the Heart of it in Haiti and helping in any way they can.
Beams and blessings to the people of Haiti and you,
Desa Van Laarhoven
We hope your year has started positively and restoratively. Below are a few articles of interest, including the announcement of the Marion Institute's Executive Director, (little old me) Desa Van Laarhoven, becoming the 2009 SouthCoast Woman of the Year (for those of you that know me, you know I'm cringing at sending this out ~ I'm trying to get out of my comfort zone ~ phew). We hope you enjoy and are inspired by these articles.
Van Laarhoven Strives for Positive Change
January 3, 2010 | Standard Times | Becky W. Evans
Desa Van Laarhoven keeps trying to leave Southeastern Massachusetts to explore the wider world, but work opportunities continue to draw the Lakeville native back home. So instead, she is bringing the world to southcoast, and in doing so, helping to make it a better place.
Peruvian Amazon: The Kichwa People of the Tigre River Mobilize to Protect Their Territory from Oil Companies
January 2010 | Nouvelle Planète | Jeremy Narby
During the last three decades, oil companies have polluted the northern half of the Tigre River basin. Oil now smears the rainforest and contaminates rivers and lakes in this isolated part of the Peruvian Amazon. According to the local Kichwa people, oil spills occur regularly due to ageing and poorly maintained pipelines.
The Welcome Home Project
January 2010 | marioninstitute.org
We would like to introduce The Welcome Home Project, the newest Marion Institute Serendipity Project.
The mission of The Welcome Home Project is to heal a cultural wound by bridging the historic and painful divide that exists between veterans (including their families) and the civilian communities in which they live.
Thank you again for your support and interest.
Desa Van Laarhoven
Peruvian Amazon: The Kichwa People of the Tigre River Mobilize to Protect Their Territory from Oil Companies
January 8, 2010
Nouvelle Planète Serendipity Project Leader
Peruvian Amazon: the Kichwa people of the Tigre River mobilize to protect their territory from oil companies
Nouvelle Planète is a Serendipity Project of the Marion Institute
2009 Southcoast Woman of the Year, Desa van Laarhoren
By BECKY W. EVANS
January 03, 2010 12:00 AM
Desa Van Laarhoven keeps trying to leave Southeastern Massachusetts to explore the wider world, but work opportunities continue to draw the Lakeville native back home. So instead, she is bringing the world to SouthCoast, and in doing so, helping to make it a better place.
As executive director of the Marion Institute, 31-year-old Van Laarhoven manages the philanthropic group's $1.2 million budget and a host of programs ranging from local to global in scope and seeking "to create deep and positive change for the earth and its inhabitants," according to the group's Web site.
About 50 percent of Van Laarhoven's time is spent organizing the annual Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change conference, which aims to get youth and adults thinking about and taking action on environmental and social justice issues.
"We try to make our mantra, Connecting for Change, come to life by showing that food and farming is connected to green business, is connected to health and healing, is connected to empowerment and education," Van Laarhoven said. "You sort of can connect the dots by the end of our conference. We try to really promote solutions and systems thinking."
In October, the three-day conference, which has found a permanent home in New Bedford, drew more than 1,900 people hailing from New Jersey to Maine. That's big growth from the first conference in 2005, which attracted 250 people to then host UMass Dartmouth.
New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang and Marion Institute co-founder Michael Baldwin credit Van Laarhoven for having the confidence and foresight to move the growing conference to downtown New Bedford rather than Providence or Boston.
"She was the one who convinced the (Marion Institute) board that it made sense to be in New Bedford," Lang said. "She realized that by capturing the imagination of an urban area, you've just impacted 100,000 people. ... She really has done a terrific job at building bridges between different groups and getting them to be shepherds of a new sustainability consciousness."
"That is really the beauty of Desa," Baldwin said. "She has an unparalleled skill set and has the ability to pull together a great team and make things happen at the Marion Institute and to make contributions to the whole SouthCoast region."
For her contagious enthusiasm and ability to connect people and create positive change in the world, Desa Van Laarhoven has been named The Standard-Times 2009 SouthCoast Woman of the Year.
Nominations for the award came from the community and members of the newspaper staff. Recipients were selected by a newsroom committee.
"I feel really indebted and I am very humbled by all the women that work so hard, and I feel like I am accepting it on their behalf, the women that go unrecognized," Van Laarhoven said of the award. "I feel very privileged to be in this position. But I've got teammates back at the institute that work countless hours behind a desk, behind a computer, or on the phone making my job easier."
She attributes her passions for social justice and the environment to her family. The youngest of four siblings, including two who were adopted, she says she grew up "thinking outside the box." Her family lived on a small farm in Lakeville.
"All of a sudden you have a cow that you become attached to and you start to think about the environment," she said.
After graduating from Stonehill College in 2001, Van Laarhoven spent a year serving with AmeriCorps, traveling around the country to participate in community projects from building a house to working at a hospital. She also lived in California's Stanislaus National Forest for six months as a member of the California Conservation Corps.
After returning to SouthCoast, she volunteered for the Coalition for Buzzards Bay, collecting water samples from the bay. Soon, she was volunteering with the Marion Institute and helping to organize the first Bioneers by the Bay conference. The event ended with a job offer, but Van Laarhoven was torn because she had other dreams.
"Of course I had a life plan, my boyfriend and I were moving to Costa Rica for six months and then moving to Wyoming," she said. Instead, she lived on a sustainable ranch in Costa Rica for three months and then returned to SouthCoast to work for the Marion Institute.
About a year later, she was named interim director of the institute, and six months after that, executive director.
"My board is just super supportive and amazing," she said. "They have really been instrumental in my growth and my leadership. And my team on the ground as well."
Christina Bascom, who sits on the institute's associate board, describes Van Laarhoven as an inclusive leader, who develops ideas from the bottom up and "is a great believer in networks."
"Above all, she listens," Bascom said.
Her partners outside the institute agree.
"The thing that never ceases to amaze me about Desa is her level of energy and caring about the issues and about people," said Mark Rasmussen, executive director of the Coalition for Buzzards Bay. "For Desa, it is always about the people."
"She's just such a great thinker and she walks the walk in terms of what she's talking about with climate change and personal consumption," said Kate Fentress, executive director of The Women's Fund of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts.
Planning is already under way for the 2010 Bioneers Conference, especially for meals that will be supplied by local farms. Van Laarhoven will delegate some of the planning so she can focus on other projects and finally take some time to travel the globe.
Work-related trips should bring her to Haiti, Cambodia and Costa Rica this year.
Closer to home, she is excited to educate community residents about Paracelsus Biological Medicine, an alternative approach to medicine that involves eliminating metals, dyes and other toxins from the body.
"There are major issues that we have to contend with in the soil and there are issues with water," Van Laarhoven said. "We need to rid our bodies of those toxins."
After serving in AmeriCorps, Van Laarhoven said she returned to SouthCoast with a new appreciation for the area.
"My favorite part about New Bedford specifically is the culture, is the diversity," she said. "I love that and love being around that."
The city is different than what she remembers from her Lakeville childhood.
"The doors have opened in New Bedford," she said. "I feel welcome. I feel part of the team."
First-time visitors to New Bedford are often surprised by the city's beauty, Van Laarhoven said.
"There is almost this tangible positive energy," she said. "Something is happening in New Bedford, and I think a lot of people feel it."
YOU TUBE: SouthCoast Woman of the Year: Desa Van Laarhoven
By M.E. MALONE
December 23, 2009
MATTAPOISETT - During the height of the season here, Silver Queen corn and heirloom tomatoes practically jump from the fields into the car and guarantee a sumptuous supper. In the darkest days of winter, the region is quieter and access to farm fresh products becomes a lot more challenging.
Filling the void is a bustling shop called How on Earth: The Store, a 2-year-old enterprise that brings farmers and customers together in a novel way. More than a year-round farm stand, the store offers a host of extras: a lunch cafe with creative seasonal offerings, meals-to-go from the kitchen, breads and baked goodies from nearby ovens, meats from locally raised pigs and cattle, cheeses, flowers, jams, coffee, honey, organic pantry items, WiFi, and a drop-off site for a popular local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. A store with the motto “Know your farmer, know your food’’ is succeeding at that effort. It has also become something of a meeting spot as well. The cafe now serves dinner, accompanied by a selection of local and organic beers and wines, on Friday nights.
“We didn’t really follow a model,’’ says Margie Baldwin, who co-owns How on Earth with her husband, Michael. “We did it by the seat of our pants. People came in and responded well to it. They make suggestions or ask, ‘Do you have this?’ and we are willing to try to find it.’’ The couple are also founders of the nearby Marion Institute, a nonprofit organization that funds an array of earth-friendly programs, including Seed to Table at two local schools and a reforesting project in South America.
Winter, of course, means that business is slow. Baldwin says it’s been “very gratifying to know that people support us and what we’re doing. I love to see the young mothers who come in because they care about what their children are eating.’’ She ran a small restaurant in New York earlier in her career that, she says, “didn’t prepare me for anything . . . either that or [the food business is] like childbirth and you forget.’’
Fresh, healthy, ready-to-go meals, such as meat pies and roast chickens, are increasingly popular at the store. Every two weeks, chef Shawn Botelho alters the cafe menu to reflect seasonal produce, says store manager Melissa Morrill. Recent menu items include grass-fed beef served with red and white beans, and a hummus-topped pizza. Friday night dinners were added in late summer and within a month, “we had our first full house,’’ she reports.
The building that houses the store was once a consignment shop. Its parking lot served for several years as a pick-up spot for Lucky Field Organics of Rochester and its CSA shareholders. Today, Lucky Field’s customers meet on the porch of How on Earth. Rather than receiving a box of produce chosen by the farm, shareholders choose their vegetables and fruits cafeteria-style. “The store’s very beneficial,’’ says Weston Lant, who owns Lucky Field Organics with his wife, Eileen. “It is good to be grounded in brick and mortar, if you will.’’
In season, produce is supplied by a number of nearby farms such as Keith’s in Acushnet, Alderbrook in South Dartmouth, and Four Town Farm in Seekonk. Pork products - hot dogs, bacon, and kielbasa - come year-round from Round the Bend Farm in Dartmouth and ground beef from River Rock Farm in Westport, among other sources.
Still, the Baldwins, the Lants, and other growers maintain that it’s a struggle to keep the connections between producers and consumers going strong. The farming community needs to do a better job reaching people in the community and at the same time, says Lant, “You need [customers] who have a genuine commitment to local or organic. This is a little more work than Peapod. And it’s not DeLuca’s.’’
How on Earth: The Store , 62 Marion Road (Route 6), Mattapoisett, 508-758-1341, www.howonearth.net.
© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.