Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Philly is Rising and Soaring with Raven 2

 

Before and After: Years of Neglect Transformed in a Day
The PhillyRising Collaborative is working in partnership with SERVE Philadelphia to support the very first AmeriCorps NCCC team in Philadelphia. So far during the round Raven 2 has completed a variety of projects around the city including cleaning up the dirty streets of Philly with gloved hands and steel-toe boots. In the course of their work, they have encountered feces, condoms, and bullet casings. But they are changing the look and feel of entire neighborhoods, inspiring residents to come out of their homes, pick up a shovel and lend a hand. Team Leader Davey recaps their efforts so far this year.





The first day of our project, we jumped right into waist high weeds and trash. In northern Philly, in a neighborhood called Swampoodle, we worked with one of our project sponsors Philly Rising, and several community members including Block Captain Vincent Kennedy to clear a few vacant lots and build a community garden. The team removed over two tons of debris, trash and weeds, leveling the large lot down to an even surface. By the second day, we began building raised garden beds, which residents used to plant assorted vegetables such as corn, tomatoes and onions for the community. The Philadelphia Horticultural Society had a few extra flowers that folks didn’t need for their “Love Your Park” kick-off service events that coming Saturday, so they offered them to us and we took them back to Swampoodle to plant in the garden.

Overgrown weeds and waste get cleared by Raven 2

During construction of the garden, we ran out of soil. A resident of the block offered his services (and his pick-up truck) to help us shuttle a large pile of dirt from the local library.  We began to network and work with Manny Ramos from Neighborhood Services who brought a dump truck each day to our site to pick up the trash and debris that we removed and take it to the city dump. This is just one example of many of how community members came together to make a simple project like a community garden come to life.


Alleyway Before

Alleyway After

Following the garden project, we headed off for a few days of alleyway clean ups.  We cleaned over five alleyways and removed easily over seven or eight tons of debris and trash from the alleyways over the next three days.  In the alleyways we began filming for a potential “Dirty Jobs: AmeriCorps NCCC” episode.  Not only were the alleyways overgrown with vines and trees, they were often filled with mounds of trash, furniture, cinder blocks, dirt and poop, sometimes knee to waist high.  Our findings were everything from used condoms, reclining chairs, tires, soiled diapers (lots of them), dog poop (lots of it, sometimes three to six inches thick; We thought it was mud until the smell hit us), needles, lots of broken glass, bottles, clothes, bullet casings, countless dime bags and more.  Although the work was tough and a bit smelly at times, the results were very rewarding taking an alleyway that had been neglected for over a decade and cleaning it all the way. Community members were pretty excited to see the work we were doing at the alleyways.  Most were thankful and the occasional would buy a couple sodas or waters and hand them out to our team.  Some, so excited, would grab a few tools and join us or at least do what they could to sweep the streets.

What are some benefits of city revitalization?  


Clearing alleyways:
· Fire safety.  Residents need an exit from their homes in addition to their front door in case of fire.  Especially senior citizens, need a safe passageway to get out. In cluttered and overgrown alleyways, they would be trapped.
· Visibility. Alleyways are a popular place for criminal activity.  Criminals know the police will have difficulty following them into the alleyway because of all the trash and debris. Criminals ditch drugs, weapons and other items into the alleyway.  Having a clear line of site allows home-owners to feel safer knowing what is going on and reduces potential for criminal activity.
· Sanitation.  The trash, debris and feces is an unsanitary situation that can be harmful to residents' health and safety.
· Abandoned lots and homes, overgrown vines and trees can damage the structural integrity of an abandoned home placing its neighbors at a safety risk. 
Lot clearing and community garden building
· Vacant lots gather trash and illegal items and they attract criminal activity.  Cleaning a lot of weeds and debris allow community members to have a more manageable site, which they can maintain and discourage the negative behavior.

Raven 2 members support planting projects around the city of Philadelphia

 It takes a negative space and creates a positive one, and  provide a community with healthier food, thereby addressing the issue of food deserts. Engaged community members investing their own sweat equity and reclaiming ownership on their block will make them more likely to remain invested in the improvement of their community. This follows the wisdom of the broken window theory.

Improving Parks and conducting tree surveys

· Documenting live trees and potential spots for trees to be planted
· Tree surveys are part of a city-wide campaign to increase tree coverage to 30%
· Park improvement – trimming lower branches on trees increases visibility in park and reduces illegal activities such as drug dealing.
· More trees can provide the same benefits as a cleaned vacant lot.

Raven 2 Meets Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter

 Get more from Raven 2 by reading about their work in Philadelphia at the Philly Rising blog here or by watching their video for Philadelphia’s Love Your Park Week:

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