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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA

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Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA
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Registered: October 2011
City/Town/Province: Holyoke
Posts: 1
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If I gave you a tour of Holyoke, we’d pass street after street of beat up store fronts, run-down housing, and abandoned mills. Grungy men sit in the parks, where children should play, with smoke clouds curled around their heads and needles scattered by their feet. “Wasteland,” you might think. “Let’s get out quick- north sixteen miles on the interstate to a charming, eclectic town where “wholesome” people stroll the sidewalks, recycle bins sit on every corner, and parents let children play in the parks.” I once heard a man snarl to his wife as they climbed back into their truck, “I’d never live here. I’d walk down the street with my bags on my back before I ever raised my family here.” What a ridiculous thing to say! Nobody chooses to live in a place where needles and trash line the streets. The problem is that we haven’t anywhere else to go.
Shame. It can swallow you whole like Jonah living in the belly of a whale, and when it finally spits you back out you’ve become so disoriented you can barely find your way to the surface. That’s how I was thinking as I sat in our Student Advisory meeting for the Holyoke Upward Bound Program. Our program coordinator sought our advice on the types of service projects we should do as a program for the school year. Timidly, my hand went up. “I think we should find a way to help clean up our city.” I contributed as flashbacks from my own childhood kept my mind spinning. “Children shouldn’t live in a place with so much trash. Nobody should be ashamed of where they live. Let’s help cleanup our city.” My peers affirmed my ideas and our program coordinator found a city wide cleanup effort for our program to join.
We walked passed old buildings and drug deals as we picked up needles, condoms and vanilla Dutchie wrappers. I reminisced as we passed by one of my favorite childhood parks with the big red and blue slides. I remembered innocently playing tag and almost stepping on a skinny pointy object with red blood on the tip, which I can now recognize anywhere as a drug needle. As I watched the kids playing in that park, I couldn’t help but think how uncomfortable it was to see them jumping over those needles. My friend nudged me on the shoulder and I realized I had stood there thinking longer than I thought I had.
Before the project, I thought of our city as a dirty place with crackheads and drug deals everywhere. After the project, I started to think of our city and community as a place to grow and learn. I want the kids to be safe in the parks they play at. I don’t want them to step on needles or be surrounded by clouds of smoke from weed. I want the druggies to realize that they're not only hurting themselves or their family, but also the strangers that walk passed them. I want them to want to help themselves. I want people to be able to walk down the street without worrying about getting violently hurt, and not have to feel ashamed of where they live. I want to be the person that comes back to Holyoke and help inspire others to make better choices for themselves and the community.
· Date: October 8, 2011 · Views: 2534 · File size: 18.6kb, 117.9kb · : 538 x 720 ·
Hours Volunteered: 6
Volunteers: 30
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 14 to 26
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