Unsung hero: reconnecting Island with nature
Omari Dill is one of the lucky ones who found his calling — and now he is inspiring the next generation to help create a more sustainable Bermuda.
The agricultural engineer has spent years reconnecting Bermudians and residents to their natural surroundings and works with numerous institutions around the Island to develop home farming while raising awareness about environmental issues.
Mr Dill works with two companies: Unity Maintenance for edible landscape maintenance and consultancy, which he helps to run with his business partner, Sean Fubler, as well as his own sustainable agriculture consultancy business Utopia.
He also works with children through such organisations as WindReach, The Sunshine League, Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation and Greenrock, encouraging them to enjoy and make good use of their natural environment.
While he clocks up many pro-rata hours doing what he loves during any given week, his work started out on a voluntary basis and he still uses much of his own time to complete the tasks in hand.
He told The Royal Gazette: “It all started off voluntarily and it has grown into a business — I realised that I needed to eat while doing it.
“At the start I found my heart was a lot bigger than my pockets, so I have been working closely with a lot of people who have shown me how to see the value in my work.
“All the institutions that I work with, I have my paid time that I spend there, but a good percentage is over that which is entirely voluntary. You can’t put a time and a price on nature completely like you can in other aspects of our lives.
“My job here is to work until the project is done. Because of where I am and what I am starting it for, it is not about money — I am willing to stay and carry it on through.”
Mr Dill was on the team that helped to set up Greenrock’s Healthy Harvest programme to encourage more Bermudians to eat as naturally as possible.
He has worked with the Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation to help integrate agriculture into their curriculum and environmental education, and at WindReach he works in the field of horticultural therapy.
Mr Dill has also been working with Greenrock through Abbie Caldas on the Eco-School project in which different educational organisations achieve different levels of eco-school status.
“We are working with preschools and the Bermuda College, and all the schools in between as well as some charities,” he said.
“The programme is trying to stimulate a culture change, but having the students and children recognise that and having them make that change themselves. It is connected with the Foundation for Environmental Education which connects over 100 different countries around the world. You can share links and experiences and you become part of a global organisation, pretty much, of stewards of the environment. We guide the process but the students really have the drive.
“At WindReach, I work especially close with Anna Terceira, who works very closely with people with special needs doing horticultural therapy.
“The Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy will soon be starting to restore their gardens, putting in sensory and butterfly gardens in conjunction with HSBC.
“It is really about trying to connect our culture to the natural environment in all its many facets. Sometimes it is agriculture, many times it is food and many time it is ecological and environmental awareness and education.
“It is pretty much about getting outside in nature where we came from. There is a humanistic disconnect we have caused over the past 200 years and we have found a lot of escalated stresses along with that. There is a lot of scientific research out there that is showing what this disconnect is doing to society and as individuals.”
Looking forward, Mr Dill aims to continue to push home this message and is working with the Garden Club of Bermuda on a possible master gardener course. Getting young people involved in his work is important to Mr Dill. His message to the young ones is: “Go outside more. Interact with the animals and plants. Feel the breeze, sit under a tree and just enjoy nature more. Continue to create your own food and have an appreciation for nature.
“Money is always an issue but if you are doing what you love and are doing what you were called to do and the world needs it, then you will be rewarded for it.”