My name is Maddy Jenkins, and I study International Studies and Spanish. In Merida, I have had the opportunity to work with the Germina Huerta Comunitaria.

Every day is different, they usually start out with me watering all of the plants and taking care of the garden. Then I’ll prepare some orders to deliver gardening materials to locals. I can also get on zoom conferences to listen to different presenters on women in agriculture because my boss is in a master’s program right now. I’ll also build compost using organic food scraps from local restaurants. 

My responsibilities include maintaining the garden and making infographics that they can print and hand out to customers as well as post online that explain how to take care of plants as well as the benefits that come with eating those plants. Overall, the garden can grow 23 vegetables, so I make graphics that cover each of those. These are the things that I usually do on my own but the other things I do with my supervisor.

The most helpful thing that I have learned while working here has been the importance of food sovereignty in relation to food security. I was very in favor of food access and food security which is what I've been working on for two years but it’s not the angle I really want to be going in anymore. Food sovereignty is a holistic approach to agriculture, environmentalism, and societal needs. 

Basically, the goal is to give people autonomy over consumption whether that be food and medicine. It essentially gives people the ability to grow and consume sustainable, mindfully, and in culturally appropriate ways. This internship has changed my perspective on how to fight food injustice.

One of my favorite parts about this internship was putting the compost together because I didn't realize how specific the foods need to be and in the layers, you form it in order to balance the pH. The overall benefit of compost is that you are using waste to create essentially new life because you are creating plant food out of other plants, it’s like a cycle that is more sustainable.

If I had to describe my internship in a few sentences I would say that it has definitely opened my eyes to complexities in food systems and how there are a lot of different approaches to “doing good”. Unless I am open to exploring a lot of them, I am leaving myself open to ignorance. So, coming to Merida and doing it here has given me the opportunity to learn from someone who is also learning. It has also given me confidence in starting my own farm when I graduate. Diana, my supervisor, is so supportive and is willing to share what she knows which has given me so much confidence to continue forward on my own because I have also felt like I could be doing more and this has opened my eyes to what I can do.

I would recommend this internship opportunity through Tsikbal to other students. In my experience, they paired me with exactly who I needed to be paired with. It helped me a lot with being involved with Tsikbal the first time I was here, so they really got to know me. It is nice to know that they try their best to pair you according to your application and your interests as a person. Also, I would recommend it because they are there for me and are always checking in.

For a student coming to Merida for the first time, I would say, take advantage of every opportunity to get outside and connect with the plants and animals and history. But also, remember that your physical, emotional, and mental health must absolutely come first. If you need help, any kind of help, you have at least three professional women you can reach out to at any time who are in the same city as you.

My favorite part about living in Merida has been the weather! It is so warm and colorful and overall, a good work environment. Getting to come here and work a job and meet people is just miles ahead of a typical Centre Term. It is also helpful for seasonal depression. I think that proximity to cool outdoor activities, the excursion to a small Mayan town was an amazing experience as well as learning about the culture and seeing the untouched nature.