UAE’s “Green Sheikh” Visits Green Bronx Machine, Gotham Greens and CS55

BRONX, NY, July 22, 2021 – Green Bronx Machine founder Stephen Ritz and his students welcomed yesterday His Royal Highness Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Ali Al Nuaimi, to their classroom at the National Health and Wellness Learning Center (NHWLC) at CS 55 in the Bronx.

A member of the ruling family of Ajman of the United Arab Emirates and an environmental adviser to the Ajman Government, HRH is a globally acclaimed humanitarian and philanthropist whose work focuses on mindfulness, well-being, spirituality, sustainability and nutrition, particularly in children and those living in marginalized communities. 

During the visit, HRH, known as the “Green Sheikh,” and Ritz, often called “America’s Favorite Teacher,” had a chance to catch up on all things ag education-related and see what GBM students are growing and learning during the Summer Rising school program that is currently in session.  In fact, GBM’s students hosted a luncheon for HRH, preparing and serving him a vegan meal made from vegetables grown by them right in their NHWLC classroom.  Prior to arriving at CS 55, Ritz accompanied HRH on a tour of Brooklyn-based Gotham Greens, a longtime GBM supporter and partner. Gotham Greens, a pioneer in sustainable indoor farming with the largest network for hydroponic greenhouses in North America, brings a fresh perspective to how businesses can operate with a triple bottom line.

“The power of friendship between the UAE and USA started many years ago via multiple platforms.  Events like these help that friendship to continue to blossom and grow. Today, we all come together for sustainability, stewardship and the best interests of all children. Today, we celebrate education and possibilities,” said His Royal Highness Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Ali Al Nuaimi.  “After many years of working together overseas, to be able to visit my dear friend, Stephen Ritz, and see the work of Green Bronx Machine personally, in his home country and home community is beyond exciting. To see this classroom and to visit Gotham Greens is to truly understand what is possible when people work together with innovation and dedication to change lives. This is what community looks like. This visit helps to share our work, our commitment, and our shared vision for the future and the planet for everyone to see – all around the world. I want to thank the NYC Department of Education, the residents of the Bronx, Stephen’s family, colleagues, and the community at Community School 55 and the staff at Gotham Greens for their gracious hospitality. I look forward to continuing our sharing, our learning, and our working together.” 

Longtime sustainability allies, the two green leaders met years ago in UAE via government officials with The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) of Dubai.  KHDA is responsible for the growth and quality of private education in Dubai.  The two quickly became friends, sharing their passion for impact work, philanthropy, sustainability, education, and wellness initiatives. 

Stephen continues to work in UAE with ESOL Education.  Based on the model of Green Bronx Machine’s National Health, Wellness and Learning Center, ESOL launched the International Health, Wellness and Learning Center at Fairgreen International School located in the heart of Dubai’s The Sustainable City – the first net positive city in the world.  Fairgreen International School is considered a Top Twenty School in the UAE and is known for innovation globally. 

“It has been an honor hosting His Royal Highness Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Ali Al Nuaimi, our dear friend, colleague and fellow believer in the power of the plant to grow successful people, communities and economies,” said Ritz.  “We look forward to our continued work with HRH.  We are always ready to bring the Bronx to the world and make epic happen for millions more across the globe.” 

Over the coming months, HRH and Ritz will embark on a series of joint projects including a series of books for young people about bringing the farm to the desert, as well as building farms throughout the UAE to address food insecurity, agricultural innovation, workforce development and overall health and wellness. 

“We built our first greenhouse in New York City in 2011 with the mission to reimagine how and where fresh food is grown,” said Viraj Puri, Co-Founder and CEO of Gotham Greens. “His Highness, Green Bronx Machine and Gotham Greens all share a passion for environmental advocacy and building a more sustainable future for our planet and for people around the world. We believe business can be a force for good, so we plant roots in the neighborhoods surrounding our greenhouses through long-standing partnerships with community groups and non-profit organizations like Green Bronx Machine, bringing nutritious, local food and STEM education to cities across America. We know that the impact from these programs extends beyond the borders of our neighborhoods and are proud to share learnings from our experience over the past decade.”

About Green Bronx Machine

Founded in 2011 by Global Teaching Prize finalist and life-long educator Stephen Ritz, Green Bronx Machine (GBM) is an impact driven, for-purpose organization with 501(c)(3) status.  GBM builds healthy, equitable and resilient communities through inspired education, local food systems, and 21st Century workforce development. Dedicated to cultivating minds and harvesting hope, its school-based model and propriety curriculum uses urban agriculture aligned to key school performance indicators, to grow healthy students and healthy schools.  Simultaneously, GBM also transforms once fragmented and marginalized communities into neighborhoods that are inclusive and thriving.  For more information, visit www.greenbronxmachine.org.

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