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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Hazelwood YMCA - NAYDO 2012

As a YMCA employee I am consistently amazed with the innovation and creativity of my Y colleagues all over the world. I arrived in Pittsburgh, PA today for my very first NAYDO Conference.  I'm here with YMCA employees and volunteers from over 20 countries.  Our goal for the next four days is to strengthen the philanthropic culture of the YMCA through sharing information, learning from each other's successes and challenging each other to go outside of our comfort zone and think creatively of ways to build healthy communities wherever we may be.

Today, I got to learn by doing.  Philanthropy LIVE is a component of the conference that allows delegates to volunteer at a YMCA in the conference's host city.  I got off the plane and went straight to the Hazelwood YMCA.  Before arriving, I had read that ithis Y was located in a "neighbourhood plagued by violence and dilapidation" and was "a community acknowleged as high-crime and high-poverty by the City of Pittsburgh and that the average income is 250% below the federal poverty level."  At first glance, all I could see was an overwhelming amount of abandoned buildings. The neighbourhood seemed to lack vibrancy and life.  Upon entering the Y, I was delighted by the colour and activity and warmth of the Y staff.  Executive Director Tindae Matambanadzo welcomed us and quickly let us know where we could help.

The first thing I was able to help with was the repainting of the computer lab.  I was working with a gorgeous shade of what I would like to say was a "Lorax" orange.  In that one lab with three computers, the staff have been able to welcome community members who are job searching, learning computer skills, using the internet and most recently it has been used to run tax clinics for community members.   Youth are also able to access the internet, play games, do homework and learn together in a safe and supportive environment. 

Doug Page from The Redwoods Group paints the art room. He really did have the most graceful painting style.  I think it was because he truly enjoyed what he was doing and knew the impact it would have.  High five to Doug and his colleagues who supported the Hazelwood project along with two others in Pittsburgh with a variety of resources.  They didn't stop there, they joined in and worked side by side with all the volunteers. 

Outside, I was able to help cultivate and harvest the community garden.  I was surprised to hear that the closest grocery with fresh produce was 90 minutes away using two different buses.  In it's first year, the garden produced 300 pounds of food.  The harvest was completely organic and everything was made available to local residents.  How amazing that food security is lacking in one of the most prosperous cities in North America? And how wonderful that the team at the Hazelwood took a plot where abandoned houses used to sit and turned it into this amazing, life giving space.
 The Y-Grow Garden has an amazing learning space, plots with room to grow, planter beds filled with herbs and a greenhouse with lots of vegetables ready to be harvested.

All of this letteuce and the beets behind me came from a little corner in the greenhouse.  It is amazing what a little bit of land can produce and how it can impact an entire comunity.

Grateful for an inspiring first day at NAYDO.  Can't wait for tomorrow!


Ren- Lady Of The Arts said...

wow- look at that green- I love painting too- and I've done several volunteer projects that involve painting.

Minaz said...

Painting "Lorax" Orange and green food gardens... now that's how I'd like to celebrate my birthday! Lovely story... keep up the great work Hazelwood Y!

Donnie Do said...

Year 3 is up 2 & me! Heard from a little birdie that Philanthropy Live is is REdwood Hot and more volunteers want in. BC here we come...with more folks.
For Youth Development
For Healthy Living
For Social Responsibility

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It's so nice to hear from you! Hope your day is a lovely one!