Gaia en El Caribe
The first Gaia University Orientation in the Caribbean will be held this winter, from December 1st to 8th, at the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farms Institute (VISFI).
Speaking with founder and director Ben Jones via skype from the VISFI Community Centre, over a consistent hum and buzz of human activity, there was a definite sense of VISFI as a bustling group of world changers with plenty of knowledge and enthusiasm to share!
VISFI is in the process of becoming Gaia U’s Regional Center for the Caribbean. For students looking to complete their Permaculture Design Certificates before their Gaia Orientation, VISFI will be offering a PDC course in November-a great excuse to head for the islands a bit early!
Gaia U will also be holding a Re-Evaluation Counseling workshop at VISFI after the Orientation from December 14-17th. You can find out more specifics here and in the upcoming months in Gaia U newsletters. The core group for the Regional Centre will be Ben Jones, Sylvie Augustin and Reyelbeck Mercado Vacca, who are working on the project as part of their OLE (Organizing Learning for EcoSocial Regeneration) Master’s program with Gaia University.
VISFI is a hundred-acre farm nestled in a valley on the Island of St. Croix, the largest island of the four US Virgin Islands. Between twelve and fifteen people live at the centre full time, but they can house up to 50 during workshops and courses. Without a winter season, VISFI is completely off- grid in energy supply through the use of a few solar panels. The main hub of the site is the VISFI Community Centre which, as in many communities, serves as kitchen, meeting hall, workshop space, and whatever else might be needed. Close by you can find a stone bathhouse (also run on solar energy), “Pablo’s chicken coop” (though Pablo has since moved on to living the high-life in a chicken tractor), as well as a Permaculture inspired Mandala garden. They have a thriving connection with the local community of St. Croix, which links with VISFI, particularly through a Natural Mentors program, lots of “unstructured time” where people can drop by and visit, as well as VISFI’s 6-course “slow down dinners” which they hold regularly as fundraisers for the centre.
The first Gaia Orientation program held at VISFI will be led by Gaia U International, but will be passed over to the Regional Centre core team at VISFI in the following years.
Since Gaia U Orientations do not generally focus on bio-regionally specific learning, Associates do not need to choose Orientations that are within the ranges of their current bioregions or the ones in which to focus their projects. However, the VISFI team will most likely be introducing more bioregional education into the Orientation as time goes on and the centre develops. This could be particularly useful to Associates interested in applying Permaculture and Regenerative Earth-Care practices in a variety of zones.
VISFI runs a number of courses throughout the year, including Bush Training and Primitive Skills, Nature Awareness and a Permaculture Design Certification Course. As mentioned above, the PDC will be held in November directly before the Gaia Orientation. As a PDC is required for some Gaia U programs and is always recommended, this is great and convenient opportunity for Associates who haven’t completed theirs to do so! While some VISFI courses are run through other university programs, most are open to anyone. They also accept interns to work on the farm. For more information on these opportunities you can visit their website at www.visfi.org and contact them personally by email.
December is a busy month in the tropics, so if you are interested in this Orientation program, finish your online application post haste to have the best chance of acceptance into this exciting new Orientation program.