Last day with GO!

Today was our second day of service and we continued our work with Green Opportunities and the inspiring DeWayne Barton. We started out the morning with DeWayne explaining his reasons for starting the organization and how after hearing neighborhood kids shooting guns near his house, he knew he had to create real change. He decided the only way to create that change was through the help of the community and  working through grassroots movements. After unveiling more of DeWayne’s very complex and mysterious character our team went back to GO headquarters and got a tour of the Reed Community Center.

The Community Center is being built by community workers, using green materials, and is going to be used as a training center for community workers. Following DeWayne back to the Peace Garden, he pulled over to the side of the road and got out of the car to talk to us. He saw a renovated community building that contracted to outside workers instead of employing one of the 22% of unemployed members of the community of Asheville. DeWayne was clearly still outraged that this had occurred and that the town had allowed outsiders to come take jobs that could have been given to members of the community to assist their own community. This outraged man has more passion and loyalty to a community than I have ever seen in my life.

At GO headquarters we also spoke to Anthony, a GO employee and leader who helped incarcerated individuals get back on their feet and back to work. He spoke to us about the importance of community and the importance of finding people sustainable jobs.

We visited the Pisgah Community Garden and talked to a few members of the GO Training Team (GOTT). They were chasing chickens and planting seeds. Intrigued by working with actual members, myself and a few other members of our team stayed at this garden, while others spent the day back at the Burton Community Peace Garden with DeWayne, creating art and tightening up the space. The rest of us stayed to help the GOTT in the community garden. I chose to shovel dirt for the new crops. The rest of our team that was in the garden went to plant seeds, I shoveled with eight GO members and got to talk to them one-on-one. We joked, and laughed and broke a sweat getting to know each other in the cold weather. I talked to them about their lives, many of them under the age of 24 and already with children. They talked about the importance of making a steady income and how there are certain standards they follow at work like no sagging pants and no using your phone. They also talked about their love and dedication to DeWayne. There was a distinct type of loyalty and appreciation that they all seemed to have for him. DeWayne had even explained that once you joined GO, you were family.

Reconvening at the Peace Garden after a hard days work I got to walk around and see the art my team members created. The garden that once seemed kind of creepy and unwelcoming now seemed like a place to learn and reflect and call home. I was surprised that DeWayne had invited the input of our team members to create entire pieces of art in his garden. It was touching that he had that kind of trust in us. After talking to him about community movements and particularly about his opinions regarding the Iraqi War, I no longer questioned his work, instead embracing his every idea and helping in the Peace Garden as much as I could even in our last half hour there.

Saying goodbye to DeWayne and to GO was difficult. While I am eager to canvas and to work with another grassroots movement in a completely different way, I know that I will never have another experience like the one I had with DeWayne and with Green Opportunities.

Our team had a fantastic reflection and really seemed to have a better sense of resolution after last nights discussion of confusion and conflict. Our team seems to be getting a long a lot better too, bonding well and laughing a lot. I am shocked that it is already half over. I love Sweet Peas Hostile and adore the city of Asheville. While I will be sad to leave this town I have begun to call home, I am also eager to bring back some of these ideas to Lafayette and to Easton. I would love to inspire individuals in Easton to work towards sustainable jobs through the impact of artwork and community works.

Understanding GO

Our second day of service proved to be a whirlwind of activities that kept us constantly moving throughout the day. After breakfast and bundling up for the day (it’s been around 30 degrees out and snowing down here), we headed out for another day of service with DeWayne and Green Opportunities. Around 9 am, we headed back to DeWayne’s peace garden, where he gave us a brief overview of how GO got started. The organization, and the peace garden in particular, was started in response to the number of youth in the community who were dealing drugs on the streets. DeWayne wanted to provide these kids with a more positive job opportunity, so he set out with the process of developing GO to help provide training and job placement for underprivileged community members.

Our knowledge of GO was expanded by a tour of the WC Reid Center, a building with big plans related to GO which is currently under construction. The center was originally a school and later became a community center in the seventies as a result of desegregation. Because of a lack of funding for necessary renovations, there were plans to tear down this center. The combined efforts of GO and the Housing Authority saved the center, which is now being renovated. Once we were fitted with neon green hardhats, we were taken on a tour of the center and filled in on its intended use. GO plans to use this center, slated for completion in June 2014, as its new headquarters. Office space and program training rooms are the key features of this building, which will allow for GO to continue its mission of training community members for green jobs within the community.

As we walked through the center, I personally could envision what the completion of this building would provide for the organization. After hearing about the difficulties that GO has in finding space to train its members, I could understand why they needed this space in order to continue their mission. I felt that I connected with this construction site in a way I had struggled to in DeWayne’s peace garden. This building was a more tangible way for me to understand the goals and future of GO as an organization, while DeWayne’s garden was a more individualized, artistic method of connecting with individuals in the community.

Our tour ended with conversations with GO office staff Anthony, DeWayne, and Marilyn, where we learned about the differences between the various programs GO has to offer. They train members in weatherization of buildings, culinary arts, sustainable gardening/agriculture, and other programs as well. Some of this training comes with nationally recognized certifications, which can be used to find stable jobs for these GO members. We got to meet some of these GO members on our visit to the Pisgah View garden, a second community garden in the area. This space was more focused on vegetable gardening rather than the elaborate sculptures of DeWayne’s peace garden. It was really interesting and enlightening to meet community members undergoing the GO training we’d been learning about, and I really appreciated the chance to see the program in action.

After lunch (which we enjoyed back in DeWayne’s garden), our group split into various projects. Some members continued with spreading mulch throughout the garden, while others worked on creating and/or altering existing sculptures. I was part of the group that returned to the Pisgah View garden, where we assisted in laying down fresh soil for planting, harvesting some of the vegetables, and weeding the existing vegetable beds. As for the group members who stayed at DeWayne’s garden, they met another man named Jonathan Santo who came to visit the garden and played music for the group. He even gave us a CD of his music, which allowed for the other half of the group to experience his work.

Our reflection tonight allowed us to decompress from the multitude of experiences we shared today. To summarize all of the conversations we had would take all the space available on this blog! Overall, though, I feel that we got a better understanding of the community that benefits from GO and the peace garden. By learning about the situations the community faces and how they’re related to environmental sustainability, I feel that we were better able to understand GO’s mission and how they go about accomplishing it. I greatly enjoyed our service today and will be saddened to leave GO, as we are volunteering with another organization for the rest of our time in Asheville. I’m looking forward to the new set of experiences we’ll get to encounter in the next two days of our service.


Hey everyone! I can’t believe it’s Tuesday already. This week is just going to fly by so quickly. But the fun never ends :D There were a lot more kids today! I definitely got to interact with a few of them and knew their names by the end of the day. I stayed in the art room and painted beautiful drawings with the kids. It was very chaotic but I realized that these kids really crave and need individual attention to grow. The smiles on their faces really brightens up my day :)

I learned a little bit more about the Boys and Girls Club here — usually, around 160 kids per day would walk in through the doors and there are only 3 full time and 4 part time staff employed here. I was so shocked when I learned that. This place is essentially free for the kids — families only pay $14 a year. The mission of the Boys and Girls Club really inspires me and touched my heart. They provide so much for the kids and the families really appreciates everything that they do.

I also grow closer and closer to my team mates every day. I realize that each of them has his/her own unique personality and that’s what makes our ASB Team NJ so awesome!! We each add our own flavor to this trip and the experiences that we make here will always be with us forever :)

Big Shout out to my ASB Team NJ :) Love you all very much <3

Today was out first day of service. We woke up, looked out the window to see large white flakes. We travelled 600 miles south only to enounter freezing temperatures and snow! Our service got off on the wrong foot, as the carpenter attempted to use Kofi’s hammer to demonstate our first task, but as he swung the hammer the head went flying. Everyone laughed as the carpenters noticed a smiley face on the now useless hammer head. Throughout the day, we nailed what they told us were walls togeather, although it was tough to visualize how it would fit togeather. We are supposed to put them up tomorrow. We put the frame together for two walls of the house.
After the service, we returned to the cabin and cooked dinner. After we ate, We watched a documentary about a coal strike in the 1980s and the impact of coal on the population. Overall, it was an awesome second day in Hazard and i can’t wait to continue working on the house tomorrow.

Working in the Sculpture Garden

When our team first pulled up to the sculpture garden, we were overwhelmed. The garden was a plot of land that was strewn with what looked like piles of random discarded items. There were black tubes draped between bare trees, walkways made of old wooden fences with hanging dollar bills and bordered with fake flowers, pieces of playground material hanging at odd angles, giant black and white portraits of famous figures, and so much more. We were told beforehand that the garden was made up of symbolic sculptures created from recycled materials, however I wasn’t sure what message these giant piles of items were trying to tell me. Despite my confusion, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of wonder as I stepped into the garden.

Our team met with a man named Duwayne, who had designed the garden himself. He explained how the street that the garden was located on was originally filled with drug dealers, and was an overall dangerous place. He felt inspired to create a Peace Garden that highlighted pressing social issues in the United States, such as consumerism and its impact on the environment. He led us through the garden saying very little, having us observe his art and develop our own initial impressions. We walked through a wooden maze, and inside were signs that were labeled with all forms of “FOR SALE!”, and giant piles of old technology, children’s toys, furniture, and random household items. My attention was yanked in every direction, there was so much to see. When we stepped out of the maze, we saw a river formation made out of old plastic slides, and they were filled with empty plastic water bottles that sliced right down the middle of the garden.

Duwayne led us to one of his pieces that caught my attention as soon as we pulled up to the garden. It was a giant, wooden, cross shaped coffin hinged to a tree and teetering at an odd angle. Inside were hundreds of tiny brightly colored toys-everything from alphabet letters, to toy cars, to water guns, to plastic animals. One of the toys even played a children’s song as you stood in front of the sculpture. Among the toys were tiny pieces of mirrors, so as you looked at the piece, you could see pieces of yourself in the reflection. At the heart of the coffin was a dark, rusty cage filled with twigs, bark, hair, and an apple. Duwayne asked us what he thought all of this meant.

It took a while to look at the sculpture and put together the different ideas bouncing in my head, once I got past the overall shock of the giant piece. At first, I wasn’t sure whether the dark spot in the middle represented something evil, or something good that was simply misunderstood. I could hardly look at it when it was surrounded by so many tiny toys, and so many bright colors. Duwayne explained how the sculpture symbolized how there is a way to get to the solution, we just need to work together and focus to get there. The shape of the cross symbolized the idea that consumerism has become a sort of religion, because we are so obsessed with the race of having more that it has become our only source of happiness. All the little toys symbolized the distractions we have for fixing the main problem, the environment. It also highlighted the whole idea of how easy it is to be distracted from the issue that needs to be fixed, when the brightness of all the toys make it difficult to stare into the dark rusty cage at the center. It reminded me of how in ASB, we might feel passionate about the issue while we are on our trip, however we must stay focused on bringing our cause back to campus, where we are so easily distracted by everything else going on in our lives.

The sculpture left our heads ringing with new ideas as we worked on the garden. Some of us spent time layering the ground in mulch, while others planted seeds. Some of us even helped Duwayne assemble another one of his sculptures, which featured Condoleezza Rice in a wedding dress, with a bag full of bloody money and a gun in her hands, hanging from a parachute in a tree with an evil face on the back of her head.

When we arrived back to our hostel, we prepared a delicious buffet of tacos for our Mexican Monday themed night. After dinner, we watched a documentary on the environmental, social, political, and health issues associated with the coal industry. It was interesting to see the controversy associated with the towns in West Virginia that are directly impacted by the coal industry, because although it provides many people jobs, it is also a major source of health and social problems. Just in one town located directly next to a coal mine, six people who were all neighbors drinking from the same well water developed brain tumors, even though brain tumors supposedly only occur in one out of 100,000 people.

After the documentary, our team got together to discuss our impressions of the day. We all agreed that the garden was overwhelming, and many of us had difficulty understanding a lot of the art. Although the art may be confusing to some, I felt as though it left a lasting impression of the issue at hand. Even if one does not understand the details of each component of the structure, the initial emotions that come from seeing the garden art are symbolic of the issue. The problems associated with the environment are overwhelming, and in some ways scary, just like the garden was at first site. However by working together as a community, one of the central themes behind the garden, we can work towards a solution. Using art in the community to spread an idea is a great way to appeal to different kinds of people, and to have them actually interact with the information. A flyer with statistics might be shocking for one second, but it may not last in your mind. The art in the garden really spoke to me, and I am looking forward to working there again tomorrow and learning about Duwayne’s other pieces.

Newark Day 1!

Today was an amazing day here in Newark!  We were sent out to our work sites for the first time!  I spent the day here at the Central Ward Boys and Girls Club cleaning the facilities and running activities for the children.  Most of the time, I hung out with a 10 year old girl and helped her with arts and crafts and talked with her a lot.  It was great talking with the children and learning more about their experiences with the Boys and Girls Club.  One of my favorite parts of the day was going through about 50 photographs the children had taken of each other a few months ago.  The photographs were beautiful and helped us understand how the children see themselves and each other.  I’m looking forward to possibly going on a field trip with the kids tomorrow and maybe even organizing the art closet!

Day One in Hazard!

Our first full day in Kentucky was interesting. It has been fun getting to know the area a little, to recognize differences in culture and just having good times with each other, but I can’t wait until tomorrow when we get down to business doing what we came here to do. We learned last night that one of the projects we can work on is just a frame of a house, and the other is some renovations; I know it will be cool to work with the carpenters on either. Still a little apprehensive about the warning of snow- I hope it won’t stop our work!


Hello everyone!! :) Oh my god, I’m so excited to tell you about my first day at the Boys & Girls Club here in Newark NJ! Urban Poverty has always been the social issue that is closest to my heart and I’m so so so SO excited to embark on this wonderful trip with my peers from Lafayette College. I was placed in team Wolf Pack and we stayed at the Boys & Girls Club while others helped out with Sandy Relief. Today, a couple of team members and I decorated a bulletin board and drilled it into the wall!! It was pretty hard. But with our super good friend — Mr. T Square and his friend, the drill, we accomplished our mission!! Check out the pictures on facebook because it was pretty cool :) I never drilled anything before.Hanging up this bulletin board took a while before getting the whole thing straight and getting all the holes right, etc. It looked fabulous when it was done and we’re so proud of it!! I also made origami roses for the bulletin board that Kate made in the Games Room :)

I couldn’t sleep on the cots though, haha. I woke up at 5 AM and I started studying and reviewing neuroscience LOL! Yeah, I’m doing homework at 5 AM during a break LOL! This is so sad :)

Fabulous Start

Starting our service today was more incredible than any of us could have imagined. We knew about GO! from their website but our community partner Marilyn Bass blew our minds with information, stories, and progress that Green Opportunities (GO!) has achieved in the low-income communities in Asheville. I will leave our blogger for the day to describe more about our activities, the Peace Garden, and what we learned about Environmental Justice in Asheville thus far.
What I really wanted to talk about was our reflection session last night. It began with a team builder called “Who am I?” led by Camila and Julia. We all had people or character’s names taped to our foreheads and went around asking the group about our person trying to guess who we were. It was our first game-type activity on the trip that really resonated a feeling of bonded fun among the members. We followed with Zsck and Anh’s reflection activity – a personal journaling time and sharing circle. This allowed us to reflect on our expectations for our trip, set some personal goals, think about our first impressions of Asheville, and then combine all of our thoughts together as we shared. I really enjoyed the actively engaged conversation that began about the role of service in the Environmental Justice movement, about social inequity, and the touches of what I am sure will turn into discussions about multicultural competency. Many of us were eager to see how downtown Asheville differed from the outer-parts of the city. We have questions about demographics of the county and how the wealth is distributed. Our adventures around the peace garden today taught us a lot about these topics; I cannot wait to learn more!
That’s the tid bit I wanted to share for now. Thank you for reading.


Well, not really since I’m already here in North Carolina but I want to jot down some of my pre-trip thoughts nevertheless.

I’m not entirely sure what concrete changes we can make to the issue of environmental injustice in North Carolina, but I’m definitely excited to finally get some hands-on experience with local community and organizations. I’m also looking forward to gain a deeper understanding of how community service is done here in the US, and of course to get to know all my teammates better.

Eggcited! ;)