little over a month ago with the help of our Love Your Block program, Cities of Service City Hall AmeriCorps VISTAs started transforming communities and improving lives. We talked to our Richmond VISTAs Guadalupe Morales and Kiana Ward to find out what this experience has been like and to get a closer look at what neighborhood revitalization means to them.
What is Neighborhood Revitalization?
Kiana Ward (KW): Neighborhood revitalization projects foster resource-rich environments that allow residents to use their neighborhoods…dusting away superficial relationships in place of lasting and genuine friendships among neighbors, scrubbing away years of crime and fear, and planting seeds that have had the benefit of growing up in the environment of Love Your Block Richmond.
Guadalupe (Lupe) Morales (GM): It means creating a partnership with community members, local organizations and government to bring the neighborhood up. It means catalyzing change and empowering the community to make it stronger, safer, and happier for everyone.
Inspiration in the Community
KW: Although I know that I am nowhere near fully understanding this city, I am encouraged by the amount that I’ve learned in my short time as a VISTA member. I’ve had the opportunity to see Richmond as a resident and as a city worker. I’ve seen how hard the people around me work and feel ashamed for complaining about this city while growing up. The employees at City Hall work with limited funding and through complicated neighborhood dynamics, with a cheerfulness and dedication that I strive to mirror.
GM: The community inspires me, simple as that. As someone who grew up here, I’ve seen a city that despite many of the difficulties it faces, has many community members who care so much about Richmond and want to see it change for the better. It’s these people who continue to do so much for the community and tackle these issues head-on that inspire me to also give back to my community. I’m happy that that through Cities of Service and AmeriCorps, I can give back in a unique way through Love Your Block.
With Persistence and City Hall, It’s Possible
KW: The Love Your Block Initiative is unique in the way that it pairs Americorp VISTA members with staff at City Hall. Although funding is tight at the city level, we have the advantage of an abundance of resources, that we as VISTA members can bring to bear on any given issue or project in our city.
For example, we are looking to start a tool-lending library in conjunction with the Richmond Public Library. Having a team of city planners, city attorneys, community outreach coordinators, and many others gives me the sense that, with persistence, our project is possible.
GM: Being a VISTA in city hall gives us greater ability to create projects that other AmeriCorps members may not be able to in a government setting. In addition, I also think that capacity-building—the cornerstone of the VISTA experience—allows us to create sustainable change in the community, something can often be difficult to achieve.