Stephen Gaskin / Plenty International
( 1980 , USA )

...for caring, sharing and acting with and on behalf of those in need at home and abroad.

We are strong, because our collectivity has made us that way.


PLENTY is an international, non-profit, non-sectarian agency for relief, development, environment, education and human rights. It was founded in 1974 by Stephen Gaskin on the principle that all people are members of the human family and that, if we protect and share the abundance of the earth, there is plenty for everyone.

Contact

PLENTY
PO Box 394
Summertown
Tennessee 38483
USA

http://www.plenty.org/

Biography

From 1976 until the end of 1980, PLENTY employed more than 100 American volunteers in projects with the Mayan people of Guatemala – in fields such as primary health care, drinking water systems, soya bean agriculture, food processing and communications technology.

While working with the Mayans in Guatemala, PLENTY gave priority to the strengthening and preservation of indigenous cultures. “We learned to that an amazing degree we shared the values and visions of these precious cultures and that, for us, development was no longer a one-way trip in which we, the privileged, provided help to the underprivileged. We saw that, in truth, it was a fair exchange where every participant had something valuable to give.”

In 1978 the PLENTY Ambulance Service was established in the South Bronx, New York, providing free emergency medical care and training to the embattled residents of that sprawling American ghetto. In the same year, a rural village development programme was begun in tiny Lesotho, a country landlocked by South Africa. Then, early in the 1980s, PLENTY founded a free health clinic for Central American refugees in Washington, DC, and undertook small-scale agriculture projects in Jamaica, St Lucia and Dominica in the Caribbean.

Today, PLENTY is involved in soy agriculture and processing training in Liberia, Central America and the Caribbean. It markets the creations of indigenous artisans from around the world through its Indigenous Wom …

From 1976 until the end of 1980, PLENTY employed more than 100 American volunteers in projects with the Mayan people of Guatemala – in fields such as primary health care, drinking water systems, soya bean agriculture, food processing and communications technology.

While working with the Mayans in Guatemala, PLENTY gave priority to the strengthening and preservation of indigenous cultures. “We learned to that an amazing degree we shared the values and visions of these precious cultures and that, for us, development was no longer a one-way trip in which we, the privileged, provided help to the underprivileged. We saw that, in truth, it was a fair exchange where every participant had something valuable to give.”

In 1978 the PLENTY Ambulance Service was established in the South Bronx, New York, providing free emergency medical care and training to the embattled residents of that sprawling American ghetto. In the same year, a rural village development programme was begun in tiny Lesotho, a country landlocked by South Africa. Then, early in the 1980s, PLENTY founded a free health clinic for Central American refugees in Washington, DC, and undertook small-scale agriculture projects in Jamaica, St Lucia and Dominica in the Caribbean.

Today, PLENTY is involved in soy agriculture and processing training in Liberia, Central America and the Caribbean. It markets the creations of indigenous artisans from around the world through its Indigenous Women’s Economic Development Program (IWED) and is engaged in environmental, cultural and legal protection and economic development work with native peoples in the US and Latin America. Two related organisations, PLENTY Canada, founded in 1977, and PLENTY España, founded in 1987, are engaged in similar activities. In 2009 projects were ongoing in Belize, dealing with the Guatemala Spanish-speaking Maya, and the Belizian English-speaking Maya, as well as the Garafuna who are culturally a tribe of Maya, although composed mostly of African runaway slaves. At The Farm community in Tennessee, PLENTY also has a programme to benefit inner city children, called Kids to the Country. Stephen Gaskin passed away on July 2nd, 2014.

 
 

Interview with Stephen Gaskin (2005)

Interview with Stephen Gaskin from 2005 published by YesMagazine.org in July 2014

FAQ about Plenty International

(answered by Stephen Gaskin in 2005)

1. How do you finance Plenty International, e.g. the medical services?

Plenty is funded by a combination of individual donors and grants provided by foundations, organizations and other funding agencies and the very occasional small fundraising event. We also sell a few items such as t-shirts and books on our website. We have a mailing list of about 4,000 subscribers to the quarterly Plenty Bulletin and another approximately 150 email subscribers. Additionally, the projects benefit from the labors of a small number of volunteers who pay their own expenses and donate their time.

2. You learned that development work is not a one-way trip. Are NGOs often blind towards what they can learn from the underprivileged they are working with?

Plenty can trace its development history to when we fell in love with the Mayans after going to Guatemala in 1976 in response to a major earthquake disaster. We identified with the Mayans immediately, and were in awe of their thousands-of-years-deep spiritual and human culture. We wanted to spend time with them and were happy to have projects we could do together from nutrition to primary health care to water to communications technology. We wanted them to have everything we had, whether CB radios or soyfoods. At the same time we began to understand the plight of indigenous peoples worldwide, which inspired us to make assisting native peoples a top priority for Plenty. We absolutely believe that a cooperative partnership between native peoples and us “Johnny-come-latelies” is key to human survival.

We have also learned that in order to make a lasting difference it is important in many projects to make a multi-year commitment-to be on the scene long enough to make friends with your partners, even to the extent that you become almost family, because the most important component of any development effort is the personal relationships between community members. Nothing sinks a project more effectively than jealousies and rivalries among project participants in communities and villages. The technology of conflict resolution needs to take its place among the other skills required for good development work.

3. Is Plenty International a classical child of the 70s?

We’ve always seen Plenty, like the Farm, as a “child of the 60s.” The idealism, the activism, the consciousness and energy of the 60s is what propelled us initially, but now we are also motivated by a better understanding of how Plenty can help improve the lives of disadvantaged communities and create the intercultural exchanges of knowledge and skills so necessary to the well-being of future generations and how important this kind of work is.

4. What does “Plenty” stand for?

The belief that there is already “enough” of what people need to live, not just survive, if we’re fair and compassionate and creative in how we, as a species, interact with, share, conserve and manage the resources of this small planet and our fellow inhabitants. And the belief that every person, for better or worse, makes a difference. Since Plenty’s founding, and the founding of the RLA, we have been made aware of current and potential threats to eco-diversity, and the planet’s fresh water and food supplies and other related consequences of global warming and man’s mistreatment of the biological nest of human habitation, making fairness, compassion and creativity more urgent in response than perhaps ever in history.

5. How can I help?

Plenty receives hundreds of applications every year from very qualified people who want to volunteer. We have a process that involves correspondence via mail and/or email, phone conversations and, ideally, face-to-face interviews. Unfortunately we can only actually place a very few of these volunteers, and we have always thought of it as a primary purpose of Plenty to create opportunities for people of the “North” to meet and work with people of the “South,” especially the indigenous peoples. We believe that cooperative partnerships between people of varying cultures, and economic circumstances, and generations are essential to the future of the world.

6. What effect has the Right Livelihood Award had on your work?

The Right Livelihood Award was important in Plenty’s early years for the prestige and international recognition it provided at a time when Plenty was engaged in major new projects in Guatemala, Africa and the South Bronx. It helps with fundraising of course, in that it tells funders that the organization’s founder, Stephen Gaskin, the Farm, which is the village in which Plenty has its roots, and Plenty are recognized as deserving of the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” At this point in time, it is even more beneficial due to the highly distinguished body of Award recipients of which Plenty is now a part. We are happy to be in the company of these courageous, pioneering and inspirational folks and organizations.