Staying Sober in Quarantine

The Phoenix uses health and fitness to help individuals overcome addiction. Using quarantine, in-person sessions were not possible because of social distancing guidelines. Mindful of the isolation that those recovering from addiction experience even without the quarantine, the Phonex creatively switched to online classes and virtual group meetings.

Those working on their recovery continued to receive classes and attend group meetings online.

Challenges are catalysts for innovation.

Story shared by Margaret Sergon, USA, based on a story originally collected by the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies of Ball State University, Indiana, USA.

More info here or contact at msergon@my.nl.edu

Nashville Residents Support Man Afraid to Walk Outside Alone in Childhood Neighborhood

Neighbors in Nashville responded to a Black man who said was after to walk around his childhood neighborhood. The man stated he was afraid he may not live to see another day if he walked by himself. This was around the time George Floyd was killed. In response, neighbors decided to walk with him.

Picture by Shawn Marqus Dromgoole

The Black man walked around his childhood neighborhood accompanied the residents. The Black man later said the community support made him feel heard and human.

The power of a neighborhood in standing up for the vulnerable. The White community helped the Black man feel safe, heard, and cared for.

Story shared by Margaret Sergon, USA, based on a story originally collected by the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies of Ball State University, Indiana, USA.

More info here or at msergon@my.nl.edu

Vanilla Feeds Tomorrow

During the quarantine, I set up a nonprofit that makes and sells homemade, pure vanilla extract that donates all of its profits to help hungry individuals throughout East TN by supporting Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee. I want to help because I lived in an area that had many people who were battling hunger, and I saw the effects it had on them.

People across the region of East TN that are battling hunger might have a meal because of the support Vanilla Feeds Tomorrow has received.

I am a Freshman in High School and I received one of my largest surges of orders when I was just beginning to adjust to school in 2020 during my fourth day at school. I was stressing about getting all of the orders out, but my family and friends helped me get them out on time. I learned how supported I am and what great people are around me. I could not have made it through that period without their support.

Story shared by William Cabaniss, USA.

More info here or at vanillafeedstomorrow@gmail.com

Food Security, Feeding Body, and Soul

Soil Born farms is located within 55 acres of a community farm in Rancho Cordova, CA. Soil Born believes that all communities should have access to high-quality locally produced food. To facilitate this access, Born Soils trains people to grow their own food even within the city. In 2018, 1,795 adults attended classes in Born Soils. An important vision for Born Soil is to train young people on the value of nutrition and how to grow food in the city. They offer summer camp experiences for pre-K through high school. They offer scholarships for those that cannot afford them.

Image by National Civic League

In 2018, there were 59 beginning farmers trained; 1,795 adults attended gardening, cooking, and herbal care classes; 2,557 students engaged in school gardens at 10 campuses; 4,200 students enjoyed hands-on experiences at American River Ranch; 386,060 pounds of fruit donated to families in need, and 130,000 plants of 118 varieties were seeded in their greenhouse.
During the summer camps, the youth reconnected with themselves, the land, and the community.
Also, because of volunteers, there is less wastage of fruit since they collect these from farmers and donate them to local food banks and other emergency food resources.

Many people are interested in locally grown and healthy foods as evidenced by the people seeking information and training. Healthy foods can be grown in the city so long as people are trained on how to do it. Inequalities were reduced by donating fruits to those that could otherwise not afford them and by providing scholarships to students who were interested, but could not afford the summer camp experiences.

Story shared by Margaret Sergon, USA, based on a story originally collected by the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies of Ball State University, Indiana, USA.

More info here or contact at msergon@my.nl.edu

Liquor Store Turned into a Food Market

Young teenage entrepreneurs in the Austin neighborhood, Chicago, galvanized and turned a liquor store into a food market. With some help from their friends, these young entrepreneurs decided to convert their raw and powerful emotions into a social justice cause. They decided to create the Austin pop-up food market that would provide alternative healthy food options in a place that was otherwise a food desert. Their vision was actualized by the support of some professional athletes who provided the funding, and the By the Hand Club for Kids who brought in architects and branding experts for guidance.

Picture By the Hand Club for Kids

The outcomes included the availability of healthy foods within the Austin neighborhood, the transformation of a food desert into a healthy food zone, the restoration of a gutted building, and giving those in the community an opportunity to contribute, for example, the professional athletes.

Resources can be reusable, for example transforming a liquor store into a food market. The power and vision of the youth- the young entrepreneurs envisioned it and inspired/challenged the community to provide materials for actualizing it.

Story shared by Margaret Sergon, USA, based on a story originally collected by the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies of Ball State University, Indiana, USA.

More info here or contact at msergon@my.nl.edu

Lasagna Lady: cooking 1,200 pans for strangers in need

Soon after getting laid off during the pandemic, Michelle Brenner first turned to comfort food—using her grandmother’s special recipe, she made a huge pan of lasagna. Then, she offered to go grocery shopping for some friends and was dismayed that they had all added frozen lasagnas to their lists. Her culinary mind screamed, “This just won’t do at all!”

Picture from Good News Network

The Italian-American posted on Facebook, letting her friends and neighbors know that she could whip up some homemade goodness for them—all they had to do was ask, and come by to pick it up. She received her $1,200 government stimulus check, and used all of it to buy ingredients for her cooking. She has made over 1,200 pans of lasagna—no questions asked—for anybody who wants one. She then began dropping them off for essential workers at the local police and fire departments, the hospital, and even the prison.

In order to scale up her operation, she set up a fundraiser on Facebook to support her work. Before long, it had raised more than $22,000, mostly from strangers on Facebook from all corners of the world. She says this will enable her to continue cooking for several months. “The world as we know it is falling apart, but my two little hands are capable of making a difference,” Brenner told the Washington Post. “I can’t change the world, but I can make lasagna.” To support Brenner’s initiative, click here!

Story shared by Brandon Miller, USA.

More info here or at bmiller2@bsu.edu

The Write Time Pen Pal Project

A pen pal project between older adults in long-term care facilities and other older adults in churches was implemented in order to help them feel more connected, especially now with COVID-19. Older adults can have difficulties with feeling socially isolated. Two churches and two long-term care facilities in the Huntsville, Alabama area participated.

I do not completely know the outcome because the project was not fully implemented due to COVID-19. The older adults from the churches sent letters to those in the long-term care facilities, but they did not receive any letters back. I plan to continue this project.

One surprise was that no replies at all were received by the participants in the churches from the long-term care facility residents. I expected there to be at least a few responses back. A lesson learned is sometimes things take more time than it is thought it will take.

Story shared by Kelsey Walker, USA.

More info at kelsey0711@gmail.com

Interviewing Neighbors During COVID Brought Her Light “When Things Seemed So Dark.”

Just like everywhere else, COVID-19 came to the small town of Leverett, Massachusetts. And when the town went into lockdown, Jinny Savolainen wanted to do something meaningful. Quarantine was especially isolating for her. In 2019, Jinny lost her daughter. And when the pandemic hit, she lost her job. So, she sent an email to the town listserv asking if anyone wanted to record remote StoryCorps interviews about their life during COVID. StoryCorps is an organization whose mission is to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. These Leverett stories were then broadcast on NationalPubicRadio.

Portia Weiskel, a beloved town fixture for more than 50 years spoke with Jinny about a quirky quarantine tradition of a weekly howl at the Leverett Pond that started in lockdown and can be heard throughout the town. Mary Hankinson, a nurse at a long-term care facility, realized when the pandemic first hit how hard it was to access personal protective equipment. She coordinated a group of almost a dozen women who volunteered to make masks. They were hung on a rack outside the post office, where anyone could pick one up for free. Hundreds of these masks were made.

Image from Storycorps

Jinny states “I believe our grandchildren [and] great-grandchildren will want to know how we fared during this pandemic,” “I think they will be in awe of the way Leverett has come together, in the kindest, most humble of ways.” What started with one email ended in a collection of over a dozen interviews.Taken together, these conversations paint a picture of small town life and community during an unprecedented time. As Jinny put it, “Just when things seemed so dark, I found some light in the words of the people all around me.”

Story shared by Tom Wolff, from Massachusetts, USA.

More info here or at tom@tomwolff.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