As we have reached the half-way mark of our time here in Chauvin, Sarah and I are slowly but surely getting to know the community of Smithridge and what makes it unique.
Our project has diverted a bit away from the initial description of helping develop a community garden in Smithridge (a small community within Chauvin, LA). For a community garden to thrive we must have interested community members who are willing to invest time in the project once we leave.
For example, during a trip to New Orleans we visited Our School at the Blair Grocery, which is an urban community garden located in the Lower 9th Ward (one of the worst affected areas of New Orleans after the levees breached during Hurricane Katrina). Blair Grocery is run by two men who live on the site 24 hours a day for 7 days a week. They are highly motivated and dedicated to the area and the project. The garden serves not only as a safe haven for kids to learn, but also provides a root for community resilience and empowerment.
Although there are many benefits that a community garden could provide for Smithridge, we are not sure that this is something that the community most desperately needs or wants. To address this uncertainty, Sarah and I have began interviewing various members of the community to gain a better understanding of what defines Smithridge and its many social, economic and environmental challenges.
For the time being, Sarah and I have also joined the Duke Engage group and began helping out at the Smithridge Summer Day Camp, which began last week and runs 5 days a week for 4 weeks. We made the local paper–see photos here! Being a part of this camp has been a lot of fun and a great peak into the Smithridge community.
Hopefully, through our interviews and conversations Sarah and I may find something, like the Summer Day Camp, that could thrive and make a positive difference for the Smithridge community.