New Garden Classes at the YMCA

By: Chanel Copeland
Location: Chicago, IL

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Cross-posted from LetsGoChicago.org

Hi my name is Chanel and I work for the Chicago Summer of Solutions. I began working with them through YEP (Youth Employment Program). I really enjoy working with Summer of Solutions because it’s showed me a lot of things I didn’t know. I’m still open minded to know more but from what I have done so far it has been the best experience. I signed up to work with Children’s Garden at The United Church of Rogers Park. However, we recently began new garden classes at the Westwood Manor nursing home where we run a greenhouse. We teach the kids from the YMCA Summer Camp next door about gardening so they will start their own garden with their families.

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Welcome to the Children’s Garden!

Location: Chicago, IL
By: Desi

Hello, friends!

Kids sharing their vegetables with the community

Kids sharing their vegetables with the community

Well, maybe we’re not friends yet–let me introduce myself! My name is Desi, I live in Chicago, I’m a grad student/writer/amateur gardener, and I love cheese. This is my first year at Summer of Solutions, and I’m proud to be one of the teachers of the Children’s Garden Class.

Before this program, I was aware of the nutrition deficit that many Americans deal with. A growing number of Americans don’t know what a healthy diet looks like, and even those who do often lack the funds to follow one. But even as aware as I was of the problem, I had never thought much about a solution. And I’m not sure why. Especially because what we are doing this summer–growing food locally and educating the community on how to do the same–seems like such an obvious answer. But now that I’m in-the-know, I’m super excited to pass on my knowledge and skills to a great group of kids. Continue reading

Something worth stretching for

Cross-posted from LetsGoChicago.org, homepage of the Chicago solutionaries! Written by Marissa Neuman, Chicago 2013 Program Leader.

Compartmentalized is a word that I often use to describe the separated realms that make up my day to day life, and I think that for many young activists this is a similar sentiment. Many of us have other jobs, school, children, relationships, other activist work, or passions that occupy our time and energy. The majority of my time is spent between the ceramic studio, Let’s Go Chicago, and feminist organizing. With so many of these sectors functioning simultaneously and often not in union with one another it is easy for me to feel spread ultra thin.

On those weeks when days feel like hours and work looks like steep mountains for me to conquer, it is important for me to know why I spend my time the way I spend it. Sometimes these reasons are more clear on certain days than others and it is often more challenging for me to find real clarity when the pressure keeps building on top of me.

This past week started off as one of these ‘bottom of the mountain’ kind of weeks. Several projects were due at school, a fundraiser I had been planning for months was taking place, and an important grant was in the works for Let’s Go. By the end of the week all of these tasks were successfully accomplished and all of those seemingly daunting mountains felt like foothills in retrospect. Admittedly, I think it is relatively symptomatic to make little of the pain of a challenging week when time has nursed the wounds. However, the transformation of my ‘mountains into foothills’ was not a temporal consequence, but the result of breaking down that precipice and conquering it with a team of fellow solutionaries. Continue reading

Rain gardens, greenhouses, and hunger walks

This post is by sustainable community organizer Lookman Muhammed. You can read his first post here.

Lookman Muhammed (r) with Ethan Viets-VanLear, building a rain garden in Rogers Park.

My name is Lookman Muhammed. I work with A Just Harvest’s Genesis Project specifically the “Aquaponic Social Enterprise”. My first blog post explained a lot about my work here, what I do, and the purpose of my work with A Just Harvest and LETS GO Chicago. These two organizations have a common goal to fight hunger and poverty through urban agriculture. My responsibility is working to maintain and increase the effectiveness of our aquaponic system located in Gale Academy on Marshfield and Jonquil in the community of Rogers Park. The North of Howard area is where a great majority of the population we engage reside. Continue reading

Building POWER and Growing Food in Rogers Park

This is the third post in a series of introductions by Sustainable Community Organizers working in the Midwest. This post is by Lookman Muhammed from the Chicago Summer of Solutions program.

Lookman Muhammed at the greenhouse

My name is Lookman Muhammed. I’m originally from Nigeria, I’ve been residing in Chicago, IL in the Rogers Park neighborhood for 15 years since the age of 3. I initially began working with Summer of Solutions LETS GO Chicago based at the United Church of Rogers Park on the north side of Chicago under Peter Hoy. From the month of May 2012 up until August I worked building rain gardens, advocating for more sustainable ways to live, and educating the community on how to grow food and become sustainable.

At first I looked at this as simply a job where I can make money to provide for myself and my unemployed mother. But after these long months of being around nothing but people who were so passionate about urban agriculture and changing the Rogers Park community for the better It rubbed off on me and I started loving this job much more than I did in the beginning of working with Summer of Solutions. I completed the summer program and learned about the many possibilities that exist if we can spread this idea of sustainability throughout the country. The many jobs that can be brought to the U.S. and the possibility of ending hunger appealed to me the most because of the growing poverty I’ve witnessed in Chicago over the years.

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Water week in Chicago

Greetings from Chicago, fellow Solutionaries! The following is cross-posted from LetsGoChicago.org. After Middleton’s post below, it seems there is a water conscious trend happening here in the Midwest. We are glad to be a part of it! Read on to learn about our take on water awareness and water conservation.

Molly and children in the garden during water week

The week of July 9, which focused on water issues, was so busy we didn’t have time for a mid-week blog post, but we have plenty of water-themed stories to tell. We kicked off the week by watching a documentary called Flow: For Love of Water on Monday. It’s about issues of clean water scarcity, and how the privatization of clean water sources by big business is hurting our communities and forcing people to suffer. It was shocking to see such a phenomenon taking place, but it energized our discussion of global water issues, and inspired us with stories of how communities have successfully fought for their right to clean water.

Participants showing off their complete sub-irrigated planter (SIP)

We continued to work with water Tuesday by making rain barrels out of materials that we purchased at the hardware store for about thirty bucks per unit, using large plastic trash cans. It was great fun using power tools, teflon tape, and various brass doodads to make a functional and highly economical water management solution that any home owner could easily accomplish. On Wednesday, we also made sub-irrigated planters from discarded 5-gallon pickle buckets that would have ended up in the city landfill. Instead, using pieces of copper pipe and a homemade soil mixture, we created cheap, highly efficient devices for growing huge tomato plants with minimal water usage! Check out the link to learn more about SIPs and the great work of Green Roof Growers.

Aquaponics Facility at Whitney Young Magnet High School

One of our Solutionaries, Anna Greenberg, shares responsibility for maintaining a small greenhouse and aquaponics facility at Whitney Young Magnet High School, where she is entering her senior year. Our team visited her school on Thursday, where she gave us a tour of the project and put us to work on everything from rotating compost to testing the chemical concentrations in the fish tank. It was a great hands-on learning experience to work on an aquaponics system which both produces perch, a delicious edible fish, and sustains a large number of useful plants.

Volunteering at the Center for Neighborhood Technology

We took another field trip Friday to the new CNT-Energy headquarters in Chicago, where we worked on their rain garden, which is centered around a massive elm tree. It’s a beautiful sight in the middle of the city, standing starkly between the office buildings on either side, and it soaks up plenty of excess rainwater, but the downside is the multitude of tiny elm saplings that need to be pulled out by hand.

After a couple of hours working and learning about their plants, we took a tour of the facility, which is still in the earliest stages of sustainable retrofitting but already buzzing with activity. Then we enjoyed a pizza lunch and a presentation from our partner in landscape architecture, the incredible Alexia Paul, who spoke to us about stormwater management issues in Chicago (especially relevant given the downpour that shortly followed – see her video of the rain garden in action here).

Moving dirt for the construction of our French drain

Overall, we had a fantastic week of learning and getting things done. My project team, which focuses on green infrastructure, finally completed the French Drain component of our first rain garden contract! We finished right on schedule despite the unbelievable challenges we faced, and I could not be more proud of our Solutionaries. Look out for an upcoming post all about our project (with lots of pictures)!

-Pavan