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January 23, 2007

Sharing City Repair and TLC Farm

These guys made my day. I was feeling so tired and overwhelmed with things so I took a little walk around the stadium. I struck up a conversation with these two guys, Eric and James (the third came later) and we had so much fun swapping stories. First, they told me how they and six friends got together a few years ago to start mentoring youth. They go into schools, as volunteers, and basically just be good role models and help kids (primary and secondary school) learn how to become good people. And these guys were just so sweet, so compassionate. They completely inspired me. In the context of such desperation and poverty, I can see that they would make a HUGE difference for the youth they meet.

For example, the organize big graduation parties after students graduate from primary or secondary school (which don’t usually happen) and they bring in respected adults in the community to speak with students. And they meet with groups of boys to teach them how to be respectable members of society.

When they asked me about my work, I pulled out my photos of City Repair projects and TLC Farm. They were absolutely fascinated. They were blown away that we use the same materials that the slum dwellers use to build their houses, but we make the buildings so beautiful and inspiring. They couldn’t get over the photos of the Farm’s sauna and 19th/Washington’s kiosk. And they thought that the idea of a farm in a city was so exciting.

The thing that was such a kick for me was that they so quickly completely grasped the deeper implications of CR and the Farm without me really explaining it all. They had the most beautiful way of mirroring back to me things about how when people work together, they build a sense of collective empowerment… and the power of teaching a child to grow food. I wish I got it all on tape – these were some of the most beautiful descriptions of our work in Portland that I had heard. They also said that Kenyans want so much to be like the west that they don’t think their own country is beautiful, and that these kind of projects would make people proud of their own place.

So, we started to talk about me coming to some of the schools and slums that they work in to share these stories – they seem so directly relevant! Very exciting.

And now I have guilty pangs that I didn’t organize to give a presentation during the WSF. I think it would have been really interesting for people to hear both about some of America’s flaws (my gosh, people really do think we’re all like Hollywood) and some of our actions towards mobilizing the grassroots, re-engaging with our sense of place and taking care of the environment. It really was an opportunity missed. Ah well, now I know for next time, right?

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