As a nursing major, Liz York always has had visions of making life a little brighter for her future patients. But after an immersion trip to El Salvador, the senior has broadened her thinking — she now also aspires to make the world better for anyone who is homeless or food insecure in Eau Claire. In Central America, Liz spent time with faculty and students at a university, and with professionals and patients in local hospitals and health care clinics. While all were meaningful experiences, it was time spent with an inspiring El Salvadoran farmer named Maria Trinidad (“Trini”) that changed how Liz saw her future. Despite great loss throughout her life, Trini runs an orphanage, hostel and soup kitchen in addition to her farm. Years ago, Trini brought a troubled boy to her farm and asked him to help her tend the crops. The experience was life-altering for the boy, who eventually went on to become a doctor. Since then, she’s regularly brought struggling youth and young adults to her farm, trusting that working the land and learning skills will help them grow in ways that will encourage them to build healthier lives. Trini calls her program “Farming Hope.” Liz and her fellow Blugolds were so moved by their experience at the farm and inspired by Trini’s story that they are replicating “Farming Hope” in Eau Claire. After building partnerships with local homeless shelters and other community organizations, Liz and her friends literally dug into the project. This past summer, Liz spent many hours tending to the vegetables they planted in the community gardens in downtown Eau Claire. She invited people who were receiving support from the local shelters to work alongside her in the gardens, growing food for them while also helping them develop skills and confidence, which they hopefully will use to better their own lives. While the planting season is at an end, “Farming Hope” will continue this winter through student-led indoor gardens, cooking classes and other activities designed to help those in need become more self-sufficient. Through her future work as a nurse and her efforts to help the homeless in Eau Claire, Liz York is a caretaker AND community advocate … And that’s pretty powerful!
Photo caption: Liz York in El Salvador