The Long Branch Neighbor Corps kicked off with an orientation and retreat on November 12th and 13th. The Corps is comprised of diverse Long Branch community residents, service providers and business owners who have come together to create a community-based network built on the principles of exchange and mutual support and accountability.
Friday night’s orientation was a chance for Corps members to get to know each other better, learn and share about the concept of “network,” and understand the trajectory of the Neighbor Corps project. There were 16 participants at the orientation representing more than 9 countries.
Solomon (from Botswana) and Hibret and Emye (from Ethiopia).
During the orientation, participants shared examples of times they’d experienced a real sense of “community.” Gannet from Ethiopia recalled that her mother always opened their home to the community and welcomed everyone to make it their own. Briggitte’s Peruvian grandfather was a community leader who fought and died for the rights of workers. Maureen, who is originally from Ecuador, remembered her mother as a community defender and organizer who helped elderly neighbors repair their neglected home in the face of threats from the county.
Although the attendance was a bit lower for Saturday’s retreat, the energy was just as high. In keeping with IMPACT’s belief that relationship building is at the core of bringing diverse people together to work collaboratively, the majority of the day was devoted to creating connections through personal sharing.
Alicia shares about her life through the manila folder exercise.
The “manila folder” exercise had participants tell about the areas of family, fun, community, and work in their lives. Angela told of the childhood memory of surviving an earthquake while growing up in Yalta, Ukraine. Hibret shared that when he lived in Brussels, inevitably upon learning that he was from Ethiopia, natives would always ask the loaded question: “When do you plan to go back?”
During the retreat we had a special guest, Alma Couverthie of Lawrence Community Works (IMPACT’s sister organization in Lawrence, MA). Alma brought a wealth of information on network organizing. Her participation in the retreat was part of an ongoing exchange of information and ideas between our two organizations.
Retreat participants prepare to greet each other in the "hello" circle.
The retreat ended with a strategizing session. On November 18th, Neighbor Corps members will be joining with two other community groups at Clifton Park Baptist Church for a meeting. The church (which has a largely African immigrant and African American congregation) is in the heart of Long Branch and wants to be more connected to the surrounding community. Church members comprise one of the groups meeting on the 18th. The other group is made up of the members of a mostly Latino home-based church. The gathering of the three groups will boast of more than 60 diverse participants representing many cultures, races, and socio-economic classes. Retreat participants considered these questions: What can be learned during such a gathering? What can be shared?
Long Branch Neighbor Corps "Road Map."
After discussion, the Neighbor Corps members decided that this upcoming gathering is not only a great opportunity to share our team’s message of community, but also a chance to hear about how others are creating community. A smaller planning committee will meet early next week to finalize the meeting details. But there was one thing that Neighbor Corps members were adamant about . . . people should bring their favorite foods to share!
Check out this blog again after November 18th to find out what happens when these three diverse groups get together!
Future Neighbor Corps members!
How do you say mutual support in your language?
Here’s what retreat participants
*Mano Welto (Spanish)
*Inter Cambio Mutuo (Spanish)