Maple Mothers Care
I’ve been working at the Maple Community Center through Americorps for six months now, in the first stages of Community Development, and it’s been a frustrating journey to say the least. It seems to me that people in this particular community care just enough to raise awareness but not enough to create a change. But I have a feeling that won’t be the case for much longer.
Glenda Thompson, the principal of Maple Elementary School, invited those of us that work at the Maple Community Center to participate at a weekly mothers’ meeting. At this meeting, we asked the mothers what they thought of their neighborhood and the answers were almost identical. They were all concerned with the community’s problems with gangs and violence.
Their children in elementary school are the next generation of recruits in this community’s local gang. With the withdrawal of the City’s After School Programs for teens in the Maple Community Center, and the lack of activities for the teens in the community altogether, these mothers were almost pretty much willing to accept their children’s fate and hope for the best.
So we introduced them to Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). ABCD believes that each and every person in the community is a valuable asset, and through relationships, the community can unite and create one powerful voice that can translate in action.
Along the lines of the popular saying “it takes a village to raise a child,” we explained this approach to the mothers and asked if they were willing to give it a try. I’m not going to lie, nobody jumped in excitement, but they all agreed.
About a month and a half later, we revisited the group of mothers. This time we came to ask them to take action and take a step towards ABCD. We gave them suggestions on how they could initiate a community-wide call for unison. And so from this meeting, the mothers, 17 of them, came up with the idea of a potluck picnic at Lemon Park, where the Maple Community Center is located. This is a great first step because it puts them in the driver’s seat. As it’s a potluck, everybody that comes on that day is contributing to the event, and by default, it becomes a community event.
I’d like to mention one mother in particular. Her name is Suzy Hernandez. She is a long-time resident of this community, the PTA president at Maple Elementary School and an active community activist.
From the first time I met her, I admired her energy and dedication to the community. Not only was she present at the weekly mothers’ meeting, but she was also present at the city council meetings to help fight for the preservation of the community’s artistic murals. She has embraced the ABCD approach and welcomed it as a positive necessary change. I have no doubt that Suzy is living out her purpose and loving through actions.
And that to me is a reason to stay faithful and trust God for He is definitely present among us in the Maple community.
Daniel Hwang, Maple Community Development Associate