They say the first year out of college is usually a tough one. As many of my peers will testify, one of the biggest frustrations is seeking the security of that ever-elusive “full-time” work situation. But, all things considered, a handful of occupations can certainly have its perks. One of the best parts about juggling my part-time jobs and activities has been the rare opportunity to get so deeply involved in inter-organizational collaborative projects. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that everything I do right now is practically joined at the hip.
Through connections made as participant of the 2012 Twin Cities Summer of Solutions program, I began my Sustainable Community Organizer position with MN350 in September. At about the same time, a connection through MN350 led me to an additional position as a server at Gandhi Mahal Fine Indian Cuisine. The match couldn’t better! The close working relationship between restaurant owner Ruhel Islam and MN350 director Julia Nerbonne has created a dynamic that adds layer upon layer of enrichment to each organization. Gandhi Mahal has developed into much more than the home of the best Indian food in town, while MN350 has found a supportive partner and and a lively outlet for reaching out to the community.
More Than Just Good Food: Gandhi Mahal and the Community
Just a few blocks away from the restaurant is a backyard garden where a team of HECUA interns farmed all summer to harvest a hefty amount of produce that went straight to the kitchen and into the curry. (This lovingly tended garden plot even has its own Facebook page!) But the relationship goes much further back. Julia, a HECUA professor, also takes groups of students to Bangladesh, where the climate movement faces a startling degree of urgency.
Ruhel isn’t about to call his plans a wrap anytime soon. “Next year, I want to have ten gardens,” he says. He has also mentioned the possibility of beekeeping on the roof, as well as a plan currently in the works for a basement aquaponics system designed in collaboration with YEA Corps (a major community partner of the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions, and employer of Sustainable Community Organizer Carey DeVictoria-Michel). As a member of the 2013 Summer of Solutions team, my mind is racing with possibilities for getting this year’s participants involved in the action. With all these diverse minds, from restaurant owners to non-profit coordinators to students, looking in the same direction, the possibilities seem endless!