Before joining the Office of Information Technology as audio-visual technician this year, Amber Giacone was a freelance videographer traveling the world to work on documentaries and corporate videos. It was a privileged life that included such trappings as first-class flights, chauffeurs and upscale hotels. Much of Giacone’s work took her to developing countries where she encountered unspeakable poverty starkly contrasting her own lifestyle.
“I was looking outside my hotel window, thinking, ‘This doesn’t feel right. I’d rather be out there trying to make a change.’”
This past fall, she did just that. On her own dime and using all the vacation time she could scrape together, Giacone spent three weeks in Tanzania, a country hit hard by poverty and HIV/AIDS, and created vegetable gardens for two orphanages. The trip, which was organized by Global Impact, also included a number of Seattle University nursing students who provided medical care in a nearby hospital. (“They all got a lot of praise,” Giacone says of the SU students.)
The original plan was for Giacone to build one vegetable garden, but she completed it well ahead of schedule and was able to move on to a second plot at another site. In all, she created five raised beds, and the spinach, carrots, onions and Chinese lettuce she and other volunteers planted will feed 80 children at the first orphanage and 30 at the other site. Whatever isn’t eaten will be sold on the market and the money earned will be used for diapers and other supplies for the children.
The gardens are sustainably constructed with a soil and compost mix. By using raised beds, Giacone was able to plant at an angle, which is expected to yield twice as much produce as a flat garden of the same size would. She also left behind a compost pile for future plantings that she said “was brewing” when she left.
Giacone, who is currently working toward a biology transfer degree at Seattle Central Community College, hopes the gardens will bear fruit—or vegetables, as the case may be—for many years to come. As another way of giving back, Giacone is planning to create an exhibit of images that she and the local children took during the trip, auction off the photographs and send the proceeds back to the orphanages.
“I don’t know how to take a proper vacation,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve gotten to this point where I see there’s so much need in the different travels that I’ve done, that how can I justify using my money in a way that’s not going to support the community I’m going to?”