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Update on the Backyard Initiative Rebirthing Community: A new project gets approved by the Commission on Health

By Janice Barbee, Cultural Wellness Center

The Commission on Health approved the project of another Citizen Health Action Team (CHAT) of the Backyard Initiative. On February 3, 2011 the Rebirthing Community CHAT received the go-ahead to implement their project which intends to create “Communities of Light.”

The Backyard Initiative was started two years ago as a community partnership between Allina Hospitals and Clinics and the residents of Phillips, Powderhorn Park, Central, and Corcoran with the goal of improving the health of the community. The core work of the Backyard Initiative is done within teams of community residents (CHATs) which develop and implement their members’ ideas. Each CHAT appoints two members to sit on the Commission.

Rebirthing Community CHAT – Creating Communities of Light

The goal of the Rebirthing Community CHAT is to build and strengthen the relationships, the knowledge, and the capacity for community residents to create their own conditions for health through intergenerational dialogue and working together on a solar energy project. They plan to light up the yards and residences in the Backyard with solar-powered lanterns.

The CHAT members told the Commission on Health that the Rebirthing Community CHAT “will organize and conduct 88 intergenerational workshops during 2011, which will bring families together to discuss community issues, learn about energy and produce the solar lanterns. These workshops are a means to create and implement new models of leadership, self-sufficiency and sustainability within our community.”

Communities of Light Co-operative

The CHAT members will use their seed money to purchase the materials for over 700 solar lanterns. Participants will make one lantern to keep and more to sell. The money from the sales will be put back into their co-operative business that will make the project self-sustainable. The co-operative will provide opportunities for the community to gain and improve business skills.

The team members got their idea for the project from their experience last year in preparing Pangaea Worlds for the In the Heart of the Beast May Day Parade. As their proposal stated: “The joyful participation of youth and elders in the preparation for and marching in the May Day event was a clear signal from the community that we are yearning for ways to interact.”

The Rebirthing Community CHAT members describe their vision for their project: “During the first phase of the project, the solar lanterns, which will be assembled during the workshops, will be hung in the windows, doorways and on fences of our houses and apartments in our neighborhood, symbolizing the re-lighting of our community spirit….Use of these products will promote health awareness and well being among community members. We expect the symbolic concept of Communities of Light to bring into focus our hope for a future filled with pride and prosperity.”

CHAT Meetings at the Cultural Wellness Center

Eleven CHATs have now been approved by the Commission on Health. There are two more CHATs still developing their projects which will soon be presented to the Commission. Up to 15 CHATs will be implementing their strategies for health in 2011.

CHATs are always looking for new members – if you live in one of the four neighborhoods of Phillips, or in Powderhorn Park, Corcoran, or Central, you are welcome to come to the community meetings on the 3rd Thursday of every month at 5 PM at the Cultural Wellness Center, 1527 East Lake Street, in the Franklin Bank Building. Call the Cultural Wellness Center at 621-721-5745 for more information.

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