“So many people care” – Making the Invisible Visible part 2

“So many people care” – Making the Invisible Visible part 2

By Wendy McCaig, Executive Director When we asked her “What surprised you this week?” Dominique said thoughtfully, “That so many people care about my neighborhood.” After just four interviews with residents in her Lincoln Mews apartment complex, Dominique is starting to catch a glimpse of how this simple process of listening to her fellow residents could lead to community change. Each week our Embrace team meets individually with our seven Dream Catchers teams and they report out what they are learning through their interviews.  As I have listened to the hidden hopes and dreams of these neighborhoods being revealed by these young people, I have been overwhelmed by the depth and insights our young dream catchers are bringing into their observations. The most moving story last week was shared by Joseph.  Like Dominque, Joseph was able to name a pattern that was emerging in his interviews.  He had several residents express the desire to care for the elderly in the community. He then told us about a senior adult he met while interviewing.  She had 22 grandchildren, several of whom were at risk of being removed from the home due to inadequate housing.  This concerned grandmother had been giving a significant portion of her fixed income to support her family.  As a result, her home had fallen into disrepair. Joseph said, “It is just sad that she does so much for others but no one is helping her.” Joseph was impressed by the stories he heard from the senior adults in his community.  “One lady raised 40 foster children,” he said. “ I can’t even imagine that.  I am...
Grants Awarded to Four Northside Neighborhoods

Grants Awarded to Four Northside Neighborhoods

Embrace Richmond is excited to announce that our summer 2015 Dream Catchers project has launched in SEVEN neighborhoods! Through this project, youth from across Metro Richmond learn about the hopes and dreams of their neighbors as they gain valuable skills and support community strengthening efforts in their neighborhood. Four of the seven Dream Catchers projects are in Northside: Battery Park, Lincoln Mews, North Central, and Highland Park. If you live in these neighborhoods and see our young people hard at work this summer, please help them out by agreeing to be interviewed. We are so thankful for our partners — All Souls Presbyterian Church, Better Housing Coalition, The Northside Library, and The Northside Outreach Center – for their support of these Northside projects. Embrace Richmond is awarding more than $5,000 in training and community engagement grants to the Northside Dream Catchers project. Through these funds, 10 John Marshal High School students will conduct a total of 200 interviews with the goal of launching four new community action teams this fall. The interviews will be condensed into neighbor profiles which will be on display at the North Avenue Library starting August 1st. Please stop by the library and take a few minutes to learn about the hopes and dreams of your neighbors and learn how you can sign up to be a part of the project. You can also email Wendy McCaig, Executive Director, at wendy@embracerichmond.org for additional information. To learn more about Embrace Richmond and how we support community strengthening efforts across Metro Richmond visit our website at...
Discovering the Assets: Making the Invisible Visible Part 1

Discovering the Assets: Making the Invisible Visible Part 1

This post first appeared at Wendy McCaig’s website “ABCD (Asset Based Community Development) is not our idea.  ABCD is like taking a picture of what is and then making it visible to others.”  John McKnight Throughout the ABCD Festival in the UK, this theme of making the invisible visible kept emerging. I first heard it from John McKnight, the founder of the ABCD movement.  McKnight described the discovery of community assets as a way of making the invisible assets found in every community visible, a process  also known as “asset-mapping.” McKnight said: “An asset is something that if invested wisely can go from very small into something big.” John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann studied more than 300 neighborhoods and collected more than 3,000 community stories before publishing their findings in the book, “Building Communities From the Inside Out” more than 20 years ago. They found healthy communities using  one or more of five types of assets to strengthen the community.  McKnight summarizes these assets as: The gifts of individuals The power of associations The support of institutions The land and physical assets The systems of exchange John McKnight invited us to add to the asset list.  He shared that others have added a sixth category: The heritage captured in story, music, art, and other forms of culture and tradition Like McKnight, I believe the gifts of the individuals in the community are often the hardest to see.  McKnight shared these four asset-mapping questions that are helpful in making the invisible gifts of individuals visible: What is your most significant gift? A gift is something you are born with. What is...
The Journey Begins in Broadwater

The Journey Begins in Broadwater

Thunder rumbled in the distance on Thursday as Quiana and Isah walked to the clubhouse at the Broadwater Townhomes. It was the first day of interviews for Embrace Richmond’s summer Dream Catchers Project in their neighborhood and these Thomas Dale High School students were early, eager to meet neighbors and hear stories of their life and dreams for the future. Sharniece, another Dale student, soon joined them. The girls set out on foot, accompanied by members of Chester United Methodist Church, a community partner for Broadwater. What did they learn on this first day of listening? One neighbor is a nurse on disability who speaks Hebrew. “She wants to add speed bumps,” Quiana said. “She thinks people go really fast here.” Another neighbor plays bass guitar and paints pictures. He wants people to stop littering and wants to be able to put things on his porch without worrying that they’ll disappear. Sharniece’s neighbor is a youth pastor at a local church. He lamented the lack of a community center. These townhomes are filled with children and teens, but the streets were empty on a summer afternoon, as was the community center until these young ladies gathered to prepare for their interviews. It wasn’t the heat or the threat of rain keeping them inside. There simply isn’t anything to do here, a reality that makes all three young ladies sad. Sharniece moved here from Winchester Green. “They had snack time, game time, time where you can get on computers,” she said. “It was open all the time. You just signed in, got involved, and everyone was welcome. In the summer...
Seeking The Good Community

Seeking The Good Community

The three young people chose a simple name for their ideal community they were building. “The Good Community,” one young man said. Inside the Good Community, there would be block parties for the kids, a swimming pool with a diving board, a playground with swings, and animals. A sign would rise above the tranquility. “No Trespassing.” You would need to pass through metal detectors to enter The Good Community. “There’s no violence,” the young man said. Here, in the Hillside Court public housing community, the young people know the truth – so many of the problems come from the outside. Inside Hillside, there are plenty of gifted people who care deeply about these children, people working to make this a Better Community. To support their efforts, Embrace Richmond has awarded the Hillside Court Partnership (HCP) a $500 Dream Catcher Grant for summer 2015. It will enable young people who gathered Tuesday – for pizza and a hard look at what Hillside Court is today and what it can be – to hit the streets this summer along with friends from HCP partner The Brandermill Church, capturing the dreams of neighbors and looking for common vision to pursue for a brighter future. At a table across the room, three more young people used Legos and colored pens to design their ideal community. They called it, “The Virginia Union Express.” “All the people in the community are one, that’s why (we chose) Union,” a young man said. He echoed the sentiments of those who designed The Good Community. “It’s non-violent,” he said. The world as they know it now? “When it...
Filled to Overflowing, Together

Filled to Overflowing, Together

On the last Tuesday evening before public school dismissed for summer, members of Chester United Methodist Church gathered with residents at the Broadwater public housing community for fun and fellowship and to launch the Library Box project. The church brought a large box and a few dozen books for kids to read during the summer. There would be no system for checking out books other than the honor system – take one, read it, bring it back, and take another. “We were asking people to watch over the box, to own the box,” the Rev. Sylvia Meadows, senior pastor of Chester UMC, said. “An amazing thing happened that blew my socks off. While we were there, some of the residents started bringing books to put in the box. We had too many books to fit in the box. How cool is that? ” That embodies the concept of asset-based community development (ABCD), which is at the heart of the Embrace Richmond mission to change neighborhoods from the inside out. With ABCD, it’s all about identifying strengths and gifts in a community and working with those community leaders to use their gifts and bring about change from within. ABCD resonated deeply with Chester’s UMC members, as they completed Embrace’s Mission Shift training. “It really connected with our church people,” said Dr. Jim Davis, Chester UMC’s Director of Spiritual Formation. ‘OK, Lord, what gifts have you placed here in the communities?’” Chester UMC members were deep in prayerful discernment for God’s will when two church members heard Wendy McCaig, Embrace Richmond’s Executive Director, speak at another local church. Soon thereafter, Chester...
A Wall of Gifts

A Wall of Gifts

By Essie Reinke On Monday, after a long afternoon of orientation and training, the Broadwater Community Dream Catchers Team of high school youth concluded our session by celebrating their gifts and talents. Part of their program this summer is to uncover the gifts and talents of their neighbors. What better way to start, than by discerning your own? We broke down “gifts and talents” into three basic categories – gifts of the head, gifts of the hands, and gifts of the heart. I gave them nine sticky notes and challenged them to come up with three gifts they had for each category. We had so many responses! So many, in fact, that they couldn’t even fit on the page!  From athletes and actresses, to scholars and fashionistas, to mechanics and weight lifters, there were so many gifts to celebrate. The end product, The Wall of Gifts, is beautiful, but the process in which it occurred was just as beautiful. At first, the students were struggling to come up with ideas of what they were good at. Everybody seemed at a loss. Then, they started working together, and I heard the students reminding each other of their strengths: “Remember that one time you helped me with my science homework?” “I wish I loved basketball as much as you.” “You were so patient that time you taught me how to make origami.” This wave of encouragement carried over to our gift sharing, where each individual stood up to share each of their nine gifts as they stuck their notes to the wall. The students watched and shared in the joy of their...
First Dream Catcher Grant Awarded!!!

First Dream Catcher Grant Awarded!!!

Embrace Richmond has awarded Chester United Methodist Church with our first Summer 2015 Dream Catcher Grant. As a graduate of the Embrace Richmond Mission Shift training, Chester UMC was eligible for a $500 grant toward their summer Dream Catchers project in Broadwater Townhomes. This grant will be applied toward the cost of training and coaching the Chester Dream Catcher team which includes youth from the Broadwater neighborhood and adult volunteers from Chester UMC. This summer project launched this week with a pizza party for the youth. Ten high school youth participated and all of them signed up to become Jr. Interns serving through our Dream Catcher listening project. They will be trained by Embrace Richmond staff for the next two weeks. On June the 23rd, they will be begin interviewing neighborhood residents and discovering the dreams, gifts, and talents of their community alongside volunteers from Chester UMC. During our pizza party, Essie, our Dream Catcher Coordinator, put the youth into teams and had them build their dream community using Legos, paper, and crayons. It was a fun project that got the young people thinking about the kind of community they wanted to live in. At the conclusion of that activity, Essie explained that the Legos represent the building blocks of the community. Each block is an asset that can be used to build their dream neighborhood. She then explained that throughout the summer, they will be discovering the assets that already exist through their listening activities. This project was a great way of helping the youth understand in a tangible way how asset-mapping can strengthen their community. Throughout the...
“God said, ‘You have an agenda. I have a plan.'”

“God said, ‘You have an agenda. I have a plan.'”

By Forrest White In the basement of All Souls Presbyterian Church, our Northside team leaders wrestled with a familiar question – Where have you seen God at work? Anita told of having heard God speak directly to her. “God said, ‘You have an agenda. I have a plan.’” God’s message brought Anita peace and clarity about her work and the ability to let go of her plan and allow the spirit to move in unexpected ways. For Sadie, it hasn’t been about expanding, it was about letting go. She shared, “I feel lighter, a whole lot lighter, and still able to love.” All Souls Pastor Brent, who supports this team of neighborhood leaders, praised God for protecting him when he fell from a ladder. There were bumps and bruises, but it could have been much worse. God spoke to him through a devotional written by Oswald Chambers. “Its basic message was, ‘Do you trust in God or trust in people?’” Brent said. Everyone around the table agreed. We need to focus our trust on God. Wendy told the leaders about her emotional morning, as a burden she had been carrying brought her to her knees during a time of prayer. “How do we take the pain of people hurting us and still love like Jesus?” Wendy asked. There was silence around the table. Wendy looked to Monica. “You embody that,” she said. “I see God in you.” Surely, God’s presence was in this place. As we move into the busy season of summer, seeking to reach young people who will be Dream Catchers who build relationships with their neighbors,...
Feedback from Our Latest Cohort

Feedback from Our Latest Cohort

I was at breakfast with my mentor, explaining what asset-based community development is. I put it in the simplest terms I knew how: growing and nurturing assets within a community to help it become self-sufficient and self-reliant; focusing on systemic problems rather than symptoms. And then it hit me: this is really good. I’d obviously believed in ABCD (I work for an organization that does it full time, after all), but it didn’t really click until I was explaining it. This is good. This is right. This is the most empathetic and genuine way to help rebuild communities. This is awesome. Over the past months, Embrace has had the chance to introduce some great new friends to ABCD through Mission Shift Training. We’ve covered it pretty extensively, but after reading the feedback from our latest cohort, we wanted to take the opportunity to share what we heard. “I’ve grown personally in my knowledge of the many efforts underway in the city. Hearing about success stories was the most rewarding experience of the training.”   “My understanding of and appreciation for these concepts has really grown. I want to share these ideas with everyone I talk to!”   “This class has fundamentally shifted the way I think about outreach.”   “As a registered nurse and as a teacher, it’s hardest for me to not set goals and plans for the individuals. Shifting to allowing them to reach decisions that are the best for them – and not what I think is what’s best for them – was challenging.” At the end of the day, this is what matters. It’s not...