Community is one of those ubiquitous buzz words in public health. We find ways to work it into every conversation, it appears in every checklist, every proposal,
every action plan. I’ve spent time volunteering in a community health care
center and I’ve proudly told anyone who would listen that of my high school’s
five goals for education, #4 (the building of community as a Christian value)
was my favorite. But nevertheless the community we’ve experienced in Clarksdale has blown me away.
A major part of a project this week is to work with the Coahoma County Higher
Education Center (CCHEC) to help them develop a strategic plan for the next ten
years. (Brief history: CCHEC has two parts, the Cutrer Mansion and an attached
skills center. It is currently operated as a joint venture between Coahoma
Community College and Delta State University). Last night we met with various
community members to talk about what they would like to see happen. The passion and excitement they had was contagious.
As part of our project we visited with the Center for Community and Economic
Development (CCEED) in Cleveland, which is also associated with Delta State
University. A big part of the visit was talking to the AmeriCorps Vista
members who walked us through their various projects in the community. As
we talked to them about early detection for breast cancer, community gardens,
and asthma action plans (see Wheezy the Asthmatic Bear) it was amazing to
catch the little details thrown in. One of our new friends had started an
HIV nonprofit on the side, but had come back to the Vista program when
funding became hard to find. Another member lobbied to work with the
asthma action plan program because he really wanted to help give the youth
in his community some hope.
We ended the day with some community building aka a good old-fashioned
game of down by the bank. Who says community building has to be boring?