Neighborhood Canvasing

A few Sundays ago, a group of eleven BAUUC youth and advisors went to the Harbor Tree apartment complex near the church.  The group went to inform the residents about our project and how they could participate in the garden.

Thank you to our canvassers:  Kris Berthold, Christina Croson,  Patrick Gibbs, Jenny Jenks, Anna Klinger, Job Rameriz, Megan Riordan, Kellynn Sembera, Keegan Taylor, Nathaniel Throop and Amanda Wehrman.

Details and more photos after the break…

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Here is the recap from Megan Riordan, BAUUC’s Youth Director:

The canvas went well yesterday. We split into three groups and made it through all but one building (building 9) I kept track of all of the apartment numbers, so that we know what we missed. We discussed the following at our debriefing afterwards:
1. Even though there were a lot of residents home (tv, radio, peeking through the windows, etc) the majority of our knocking did not result in doors being answered. It frustrated some of the youth, but then they were extra excited when a door actually opened, so it evened out.
2. The management was not in the office (even though their posted hours said they would be) so we would like to follow up with them to see if we could put up posters in the office, laundry room, and near the mailboxes. We didn’t want to do it without permission.
3. There were a LOT of kids in the complex. The youth thought it would be a good idea to start making a point of inviting the neighborhood youth to take part in church events as ‘sponsored’ guests (fall fest, multi-culture week, etc) and focus some of the garden efforts on child centered projects if possible.
4. We noticed a Spanish  church sticker on a lot of the doors. It was suggested that we attempt to partner with them and the catholic church on NASA rd 1 to spread the word about the community project.
5. It was suggested that we include a map on our information sheets along with specific hours of when the church was open. (These were the questions asked the most). We explained that the church was under the water tower when asked. All in all, I think the youth had fun, along with the advisors.

And here are the observations from Patrick Gibbs, one of our bilingual volunteers:

I second what Megan wrote (especially a map and hours on the flier), and add this based on my reflections after I got home:

**  I mostly spoke Spanish. At the first apartment I asked “English or Spanish,” he said Spanish, so I went with that for all but two apartments (out of about 13 folks I spoke with).

**  I mostly said “We’re starting a community garden down the street, and it’s open for participation, if you want a spot to grow some vegetables, free of charge, and you don’t have to do church stuff. We’re building most of it next Saturday.” I didn’t use the word “invite” at all. “We invite you” could make the message more welcoming, and encourage action and connection.

**  The air outside was cold (~50*), so that added to my sense of “I don’t want to bother folks, so I’ll speak rapidly, ask if they have questions, and move on promptly and courteously.” This means I learned almost nothing about the people I spoke with. The situation didn’t seem to lend itself to finding out the things I’m curious about (e.g. Are any of the residents organized formally or informally around activities or causes that they would like us to support?). It’s now even clearer to me what was obvious before: getting to know people takes time, and won’t happen all at once by wandering up and knocking on their door.

**  I look forward to seeing if anyone from Harbor Tree or their friends come to the garden this month. My guess is that among all of us, we talked to about 40 people, and left fliers on another 80 doors. My very rough guess is that in the next month, about 5 people will call and 2 will show up without calling. Kellynn suggested that more folks might come if they see their friends with fresh vegetables.

**  I realize there’s sort of a youth group curriculum, and it also fluctuates based on the interest of the participants. I only had long conversations with two of the youth, and one of them seemed surprised and uncomfortable the state of the apartment complex. Based on that, I’m guessing that maybe she doesn’t know how other people live, especially poorer people here in Clear Lake (though we didn’t talk about it directly). I didn’t know when I was 14, and I still have little connection with poorer folks in Clear Lake. I remember meeting poorer kids at school, and realizing that I knew nothing about their neighborhoods. I suppose the community garden could offer a forum to foster cross-cultural awareness, depending on who participates and how. Maybe it makes sense for me to visit the youth group again for a follow-up conversation about our experience canvassing and other cross-cultural interactions.

**  I really enjoyed the adventure, both my chances to chat briefly with the residents, and getting to know folks in the youth group. Plus I love wandering around outside!

An adaptation of Fukuoka’s line: Part of the goal of this community garden is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of humans’ relations.

I remain enthusiastic!  Patrick Gibbs

Thank you to all who participated.  I’m excited about finally introducing our project to the neighbors!

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