Meet Your Neighbor

The Hope Community Center is an amazing place.  They serve the 10th and Paige neighborhood near the University,  offering after school programs, ESL classes for refugees and transitional services for homeless folks.   Its a very grass-roots, down-home and personal environment that they’ve built up slowly over time.  Everyone involved in Hope, both those serving and being served show a clear sense of ownership and pride in the place.

Several months ago, we got a comment on one of our blog posts from Garrett of  The Hope Community Center.  He had somehow found his way to our blog and saw that our vision is very aligned with their new Meet-Your-Neighbor program.  The Hope website describes their inspiring visiont:

Meet your neighbor is a call to the community to become acquainted with our neighbors and to know what is going on in our community. [It is] an education and an acknowledgment that were all a part of a greater system, that streets and railroad tracks do not divide humanity. We believe that everyone is everyone’s neighbor. We are all connected. If we express respect and mutual concern for all, OUR communities will be a better place for all. In return, this will bring more security to the streets of our neighborhoods.

Hope is holding 10 MYN events over the course of the summer, on a series of Saturdays in various parks around town. The themes include cooking, music, art, dancing, health; and each event includes neighborhood and city-based organizations.  The Music themed event included performances by the kids at the Music Resource Center, a local non-profit who’s mission is ” to educate and inspire young people and through music equip them with life skills for the future.”   The Cooking theme included food prepared by the local Food Not Bombs Chapter.

Garrett invited Urban Evolution to join the the Greener Earth themed event this past Saturday at Lee park.  It feels a bit odd for Urban Evolution to morph from blog-name to organizational identity.  Yet it was fun to share our various projects with more folks.  We had a few photo montages, one of Woodfolk house (garden, composting toilet, outside fridge), one of the garden work parties and bunch of pictures of the parking spot takeovers.  We also provided “blank slate streets,” photos of Cville city streets that we’d lightened to provide a blank slate for folks to design a people-centered street plan.

We met some interesting folks over the course of the day.  A teacher at the Renaissance school here in town was  interested in getting his kids involved in the various projects.  There was a woman who is creating a clearinghouse website for all things green in Cville.  Another woman told us about an interdependence project that is creating a sustainability matrix.

Towards the end of the event Josh, the main organizer and executive director for Hope, came over and urged us to go up to the tent.  A few city workers from neighborhood development and public utilities were there answering questions from the people.   The audience’s questions were on the wane, so we jumped in, tag-teaming back and forth.  Would the city support edible landscaping in the parks?  Were they working to legalize the use of greywater?  What about the zoning restrictions for more then 4 unrelated people living together?

The answers were relatively satisfying.  The city government has cut its energy usage by something like 18% over the last few years, and there are a variety of incentives and regulations in place for both residents, developers and builders to promote sustainable development and energy efficiency.  Nothing earth-shaking, but definitely in the realm of progressive efforts for your average American city.  We also got the name of a good follow up person for the edible landscaping stuff.  It was very empowering to meet these city officials face-to-face and hold them to account for making this city more sustainable.

I really admire Hope for seeing and honoring the complexity and numerous facets of community building.  And at the core, they are helping strengthen the community by strengthening relationships, and by building trust, confidence, and a strong network of folks who care about and support each other.

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~ by karmakas on July 21, 2009.

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