Mutual aid, climate action

Every resident in three abutting streets were connected via whatsApp, facebook or by door knocking. They kept in contact sharing things, ideas and experiences throughout the lockdown. One of the things that everyone agreed on, was the glory of the silence, the lack of traffic the breathable air (in the City), and the opportunities to discover what neighbours were interested in – who played the ukelele, who made jam, who ran a plant swop, who could sew, who could sing, who had a saw and who liked to run. Over time the joys of walking and cycling became clear.

Picture by I love Manchester

We held some Zoom meetings and conducted a survey to be sure of the interest in traffic reduction, and made an application to the Government to close the group of streets to vehicular traffic. Even if this is unsuccessful, the shared interest in traffic reduction that has arisen from the pandemic, is a good foundation for further resident-led climate action.

Neighbours knew who did not have (or use) internet – lesson – get to know your neighbours.
Given a reason to connect, people enjoyed the connections – lesson – find a common shared purpose.
Things (like climate action) do not happen without leadership – lesson – lead: and consider why not you?

Story shared by Carolyn Kagan, United Kingdom

For more info please contact at: cmkagan@gmail.com

Farming in the City

Many low-income neighborhoods lack nearby sources of fresh food. Frequently there are no large markets in the vicinity; residents must rely on foods available in smaller stores, which are generally less healthy and more expensive.

One strategy for addressing this issue is to persuade more markets to locate in the area – but often that’s hard. A different strategy is to teach residents how to grow their own food, right where they live. That’s the mission of the Urban Farming Institute (UFI), a Boston-based nonprofit that not only teaches farming skills, but also how to set up urban farming businesses.

Image retrieved from pixabay

UFI manages seven farms in Boston city, in the middle of low-income neighborhoods. Every summer, it runs two distinct courses: a 9-week course in basic food systems, and a 20-week hands-in-the-ground course in urban farmer training. Both fill up regularly. Each year 700 trained volunteers come to help do the planting, harvesting, and other farm work.

Over the years, additional program features have been developed: a separate Young Farmers Program; a virtual farm stand; public lectures, workshops, and discussions; videos; and sales to numerous restaurant partners. UFI is growing, and it is thriving.

To build strong communities, it helps to strengthen residents’ abilities to address and meet their own needs — and there’s no more basic need than food. UFI has shown how this can be done despite limited funds, but with a clear sense of purpose, a committed staff team, strong organizational skills, and the provision of meaningful benefits; food you can eat.

UFI believes that “any location can be a place where food is grown for local consumption, local sales and local distribution.” When this happens, economic inequities are reduced, and we have made progress toward a just and sustainable society.

Story shared by Bill Berkowitz, United States of America.

More info here or at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu

Children’s Leadership at Racial Justice Demonstrations

Children, and particularly children of color, are often those most impacted by injustice. But children have both feelings and opinions; and even young children can be quite capable of speaking out and acting in their own behalf.

Several recent worldwide demonstrations for racial justice have featured children, as participants, marchers, speakers, and sometimes leaders. Examples are a Children’s March in Brooklyn, New York, and a Peaceful Children’s March in Boston. In Brooklyn, according to news reports, “Dozens of children, from preschoolers to teens, took turns speaking at the podium, some using a step stool so the crowd could see them.”

Picture by Nick Sansone for The New York Times

It is difficult to measure exact outcomes of activities such as demonstrations, because their effects cannot easily be separated from other events. But some indicators of success are the media coverage that such events have drawn, which also calls attention to the strengths of children; these are both positive effects in themselves. An additional likely positive effect is the empowerment of the children who participated.

Children can be positive agents of social change. They are not just people to be loved and cared for, or future activists in training, but bona fide community assets who can be activated and empowered for causes that affect them and they believe in.

Too often, their strengths are under-utilized. But in the strong words of a Boston child demonstrator: ” I am a force that you can’t hold back. I am young. I am educated and I am proud to be Black. So the only thing I have to say to you is this: ‘Be prepared to be uncomfortable.'”

Story shared by Bill Berkowitz, United States of America.

More info here or at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu

Haiku on the Bike Trail

A paved trail runs through a suburban town near Boston. It is popular both for commuting to work and for recreational uses, such as bicycling, walking, and jogging; it’s used by thousands of people every day.
Some artists in town realized that the asphalt pavement on the trail could be a good location for art, for it was highly visible, eye-catching, and unusual. So they started a Bikeway Haiku contest – an open competition in which residents were encouraged to submit haiku (a Japanese style of poetry, with 17 syllables). The winning entries would be painted directly on the pavement.

Image retrieved from Arlington Public Art

Over 460 entries were received. Of these, 111 haiku were selected for installation. Two samples:

Are you still seeking?
This is the asphalt speaking.
Keep up the good work!

Hope for bicycling
Humbly gets us around town
While saving our world.

Volunteers painted the poems, using stencils, at individually-designated locations on the miles-long trail. Eventually rain and weather eroded the paint, which was expected at the beginning, since this was not meant to be a permanent installation.

The bikeway haiku were a source of pleasure to those cycling or walking by. Part of artistic creativity is deciding where the art can have the most impact; in this case, the planners chose their location well.

More generally, art can be a powerful community-building tool. It can elevate the spirit, and create connections between people through their shared experience. The Bikeway Haiku project also illustrates that art can be part of everyday life, available to everyone, and should not simply be reserved for galleries or museums.

Story shared by Bill Berkowitz, United States of America.

More info here or at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu

Kite Oxford Nairobi

In the last five months, we (a student led organisation) came together to provide food baskets to mentees families. We decided on redirecting our mentorship project funds at first to covid response, seeing that many of the families were in desperate circumstances with most losing their daily jobs as casual workers. The school counselor, the principal and gate keepers of the area assisted greatly in coming up with the names of the needy students this then facilitated our action in providing monthly food baskets to each family.

So far, we have been able to provide tonnes of food baskets to over 41 families who have an average 5 members living within the home since April to date. We have been able to spread awareness and support each of the families as we check up on their well being when we distribute the foods. Most are hopeful that things will get better while some of the mentees (children) are unsure of their education as schools have been closed with no assurance of opening up again until next year.

I’ve learned that its important to hear the need of the people, at first we thought covid might restrict us in meeting to discuss what the families needed most in terms of foods they eat. Another challenge was most families don’t have phones to be contacted easily, on this we just permanently informed them that we will be distributing the food baskets on first of every month at a particular time (11am) this helped us a lot. We also had to understand how to communicate better in swahili as most parents did not like speaking to us in English.

Story shared by Patricia Ojijo, Kenya

More info here or at patriciaojijo@gmail.com

1:1 Concerts – How you can Experience an Intimate Form of Community in Public Spaces

A 1:1 CONCERT features a 10 min. non-verbal 1-to-1-encounter between a listener and a musician. The opening eye contact and ensuing mutual gaze is the impulse for a very personal concert where both sides experience an unprecedented intensity allowing proximity from a distance. The concert attendees do not know who is going to play. Whether they hear a jazz saxophone, a double bass or a baroque flute will come as a surprise. Moreover, the concept explores extraordinary concert venues – concerts can take you to an art gallery, a quiet backyard, an empty factory hall or an allotment garden.

Picture by 1:1

1:1 concerts started already in 2019 in a small rural monastery in Volkenroda (Thuringia/Germany). During the lock-down the idea of intimate 1:1 concerts spread from a small monastery in rural Germany to many cities and places and crossed borders to the Netherlands, France, Austria, and even to India and Australia. More will follow.
Both listeners and musicians report that the 1:1-format creates a very intimate and intense experience of belonging and giving. At the same time it is a unique way to enjoy music and connect to a person and to art.
Donations go to an emergency fund for musicians.

To experience community and belonging you do not necessarily need a large group of people. The special moment of being 1:1 with a musician, artist, writer, reader in an performance which is just for you comes as a surprise of feeling a sense of community and deep emotions for both – performer and listener.
1:1-concerts, readings, art or cultural encounters are easy to replicate and to organize. The 10minute-format and the meeting of two people without words only needs small preparation on no permits. They can happen everywhere, even in your garden or backyard. Spread the idea!

Story shared by Wolfgang Stark, Germany

More info here or at wolfgang.stark@stw.de

Community Action Network

Starting from a few existing CSO’s a call went out for communities to come together across Cape Town to support those vulnerable during lockdown. In no time at all over 200 CAN’s had sprung up over Cape Town, self organising in a flat hierarchy, organising to support the rapidly rising number of people without income due to the strict lockdown measures, the number of people going hungry rising rapidly daily. Using whats app and zoom calls these CAN’s were learning from each other and networking, with CAN’s from better resourced areas pairing up with CAN’s from under resourced areas.

Image by Cape Town Together

At present, the CAN’s are doing more than the SA government to feed those who are going hungry due to strict lockdown measures through a network of community kitchens, as COVID numbers are now rising CAN’s are now organising to put together ‘Community Care Centres’. Gardening initiatives are springing up in every part of town.

The lockdown connected a divided Cape Town. Those requesting food support volunteering to cook in the community kitchen alongside their much wealthier neighbours, bridging divides. People connected with their neighbours and an elaborate scheme of street reps sprung up where neighbours support each others, sending data , airtime and supermarket vouchers to those in need.

Story shared by Elin Dubym, South Africa.

More info here or at elinlovisa@gmail.com

“Roti revolution” that helps feed migrant workers

An initiative that involves women from the residential community of Surat, India, cooking five extra rotis each has become a massive lifeline for migrant workers who are suffering amidst the COVID-19 lockdown. The initiative was started by NGO, Surat Manav Seva Sangh ‘Chhanyado’. Women from across the city cook extra rotis or flat bread that are collected and taken to the NGO’s community kitchen in the city. The kitchen is staffed by 16 women who exclusively make vegetable curry and chili pickle, packing the rotis collected from the households along with it. The food packets are then distributed to about 35,000 people in need in different parts of the city.

Picture by S. Mojumder/Drik/CIMMYT.

Story from India.

Read more here or at the Community Tool box.

Making Sure Kids Get Fed during School Closures

Food service professionals and other community members are stepping forward to ensure no child goes hungry. Millions of kids across the US rely on school meals for essential nutrition. Communities are getting creative; some schools are delivering meals or hosting meal drive-throughs for families. Learn more about these efforts in this article from Voices for Healthy Kids

Image retrieved from Voices for Healthy Kids

Story from the USA.

Read more here or at the Community Tool box.

University Extension Project: Intersectional Perspective on a Feminist Clinic

We gathered a group of [female] mental health workers with different links to public university – professors, technicians and post-graduate Psychology students – and we created an emergency response project for women in domestic violence situations. The psychology sessions are conducted via Whatsapp and preferably in groups of 3 to 4 women with a facilitating technician. Additionally, we have social network pages that offer the contacts for guidance and legal and health services for the women, and a group of writers which can exchange experiences just by writing a collective diary.

Image from the clinic’s Facebook page. Translation “You can talk to us by sending a message through the Facebook or Instagram page at @clinicafeministaufrgs Even in isolation, you are not alone!”

The project is partnered with a gender justice and human rights for women NGO. This defined the community leaderships as the priority in our response, as they attend to other women who are potentially victims of domestic violence in their regions. These groups operated as emotional support to allow the leaderships to continue doing their work of actively searching for women who needed help while also feeling as if they are being supported in their own self-care. We formed a support network in regions of greater vulnerability where the increase in poverty has resulted in an increase in domestic violence.

The mutual aid groups online have expanded via referrals from the women among themselves and publicizing on social networks (Facebook and Instagram), where the posted instructions might have reached more women than just the ones that accessed the groups. The psychologist and services network involved also expanded with the suggestion of integrating a project which would help other women. The professionals understood that it is possible to increase access to an audience which would not look for them and women who wouldn’t be motivated to find psychological aid found out that they can make use of it to take care of themselves and break with cycles of violence.

Story shared by Simone Paulon, Brazil

More info at the project’s Facebook page or at simonepaulon@gmail.com