As you guys know, a big part of starting Almonds + Asana was a feeling that I needed to do more. Part of that is learning how I can take small but really impactful steps towards supporting the environment by making food and lifestyle choices that I share with you pretty often. But the other piece is understanding how I can be more aware at a micro level of what’s happening in my neighborhood, my city, my state etc.
A lot of people who live outside of Chicago are aware of the issues we have with gun violence, but living here in a neighborhood where that isn’t as big of an issue it’s easy to feel really far removed from it and I think that’s the biggest problem.
In the last season of the pod cast I co-host we discussed how identity affects your experience in life and at one point we talked about how often with issues like systemic racism we see the problem but when it doesn’t affect us we walk away instead of asking the hard questions like WHY is this happening and WHAT can I DO about it.
I want to push myself to get more uncomfortable, to get closer to experiences that are outside of what I’ve encountered in life and when I learned about iGrow Chicago I felt like it was a great place to spend some time.
Basically, iGrow is an organization that’s all about creating a safe and welcoming environment for people who don’t otherwise have that in their life. They created a peace house in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, a neighborhood that’s been plagued with violence for many years. The house is like any other house on the block in terms of location, but what happens inside is truly special.
From after school programs to yoga classes to a community farm they are developing opportunities and spaces for the people in the neighborhood to learn and grow in a safe environment fostering goodness for everyone around them.
The specific event I helped out with was setting up for their Annual Peace Fest where vendors of all kinds join in for a block party of sorts, here are some of the cool things I saw:
- A used clothing & toys giveaway
- A dental van proving free check ups for kids
- STD/HIV testing
- Back pack giveaways stocked with school supplies
- Arts & Crafts tables for kids to create art around what peace looks/feels/smells like to them
Of course, there was also a big bounce house, mindfulness/movement classes, and lots of yummy food to be served up among many other things. But what was so neat about the whole experience is that you could tell this was truly a place where community members felt safe, which was hugely important for the neighborhood since the day before someone they all knew was shot right in front of the iGrow Chicago garden.
It’s tough to walk into these environments and see first hand how different of lives people are living just 20 minutes away but it’s important to begin to understand the issues we have to overcome in this country, starting one small step at a time.