A few years ago, Martha and I (Todd) were traveling from our Algonquin Park home to Ecuador with Pachamama Alliance. We toured many towns, villages and outposts and even slept on night on the ground in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest – not quite the same as camping in Algonquin Park. While there were many memorable moments on our journey, one that stuck with us was our drive through a small community teeming with people out doing community improvements. Our mini-bus was diverted through backalleys and small roads as the main road through town was under construction.
As we drove, we noticed something that seemed a bit unusual.
There were ladies sweeping debris on the soccer pitch, children clearing the ditches of garbage and cutting down the long grass, men toiled in the street repairing the roadway, people painting buildings. In short, everyone was helping improve the look of things in this small town.
We were told that the community was participating in MINGA – a South American community activity that engages all “community members in action” beautifying their village. Called by the village mayor, all citizens lay down the work of the day to take part in a massive community effort. It’s a beautiful thing.
At our Algonquin Park home, Northern Edge Algonquin we’ve taken the concept of Minga and we apply it to our work at the Edge of Algonquin Park. Sometimes we gather with friends, family and Edge team members, and very often – our guests to become a “Community in Action!” Over the years we have had guests build trails with us, split and stack firewood, cook, shovel gravel and earth, rake leaves, tend to weeds in the garden, clean canoes and SUP boards, stomp clay and straw into bricks to build Rocky our bake oven – and most every guest helps out in our mealtime clean up of dishes.
When our community is in action – together, we accomplish quite a bit in a short amount of time. Each spring we have a Minga day that primarily focuses on improving our outdoor spaces. Tomorrow, we’ll dress for Minga and get dirty together. We’ll be focusing on gardens, paths and entryways. We’ll plant a ton of colourful fresh flowers among the spring bulbs that are bursting forth at the lakefront.
If you had a Minga day what would you like to beautify? If everyone contributed, how would that build community?