Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Meet the Intern for Spring 2014!

       Hello I am Alicia Davalos, the latest Los Angeles AFSC intern for Spring 2014! I am currently a sophomore at Azusa Pacific University, studying Global Studies with a minor in TESOL. Everything that has to do with humans and their culture energizes me. I love learning about people, their cultures, their backgrounds, and their religions. People are so beautiful in their own unique way and I think that is the reason I want to work with people for a living. I desire to be able to comfort people in any possible way and support them especially in their times of need. As a career I hope to do this by working for a non-profit organization and teaching English as a secondary language to students.
       I love the mission that AFSC is driven to succeed and I am so glad I get to be apart of it. My heart has always focused on social justice issues like human trafficking, and homelessness; but AFSC has opened my eyes to issues like food injustice; something I would have never acknowledged if it weren’t for this internship. Being able to work with students and help teach them how to become aware of these issues and how to garden so they can make their own healthy foods will be a wonderful experience. I love being able to see students become motivated and come together in one community to garden or participate in a variety of activities. I am eager to continue to learn about food justice issues and how we, the community, can be the change we want to see.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Not Looking Back: A volunteer's memoir

On February 2nd, 2013, I was at the lowest point of my life. I was suffering from agonizing anxiety and debilitating depression. That night, I was admitted into a mental hospital and placed on a 72-hour involuntary hold. It was the most difficult, trying experience I've ever faced. I felt hopeless. When I was finally released, I was engulfed with uncertainty. I did not know what I was going to do, but I knew things had to change. I could not continue living life the same way, without purpose. In all honesty, that was not truly living. I needed something positive, something meaningful. I am glad to say I found it. Around March, I visited my old high school, Central High School/All Peoples. I felt that would be a good place to begin my road towards a better life. I was not disappointed. While I was there, I found that the garden program was still alive and well. That made me happy. At that moment, I knew there was something right in front of me that I needed to be involved in. I went home that night feeling particularly optimistic. From that day forward, I volunteered in that garden, doing anything and everything I could to help. It began with one or two days a week, then it was two or three, eventually it became entire weeks. The more time I spent there, the happier I was. I didn't know at the time, but there was something about gardening, something special. Gardening is not just a pastime. It is a powerful tool and an influential act. For me, it was a means to reclaiming my life. But it wasn't just the gardening, it was the community that was built through it that had the greatest impact on me. I believe that this is the beauty of it, the most influential part. It is an amazing thing to see people come together and work towards a common goal; building community, transforming neighborhoods, and so much more. Gardening allowed me to see that. It is now December, ten months later, and I have not once looked back. I cannot express how grateful I am for what gardening has given me, for the people it has allowed me to surround myself with. It has been a surreal experience. 2013 began as the worst year of my life; gardening has made it the best. ------ Jorge volunteers for All Peoples and the AFSC on a weekly basis. Jorge recently became Victory Garden Certified and will be applying to LA's 2014 Master Gardener Program.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Story From LA Streets Blog


Gardening Students in South L.A. Use Their Skills to Build Garden Beds for Local Families

The students' garden classroom at All Peoples Community Center. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
Sandwiched between 110 fwy on the west, the 10 fwy and the Blue Line tracks to the north, and an industrial area to the east, the All Peoples Community Center sits in a densely packed neighborhood in Historic South Central that seems to have been forgotten by the city. You know things can’t be great when a gang can take the liberty of drawing enormous hand signs in the middle of an intersection (below), for the benefit of anyone in doubt about whose territory they are in. And, every time I roll through there, I feel like I and everything around me are being liberally coated in layers of grime.
A clique marks its territory in the middle of the street. The signs have been there in various incarnations for years. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
Yet, the hardworking folks at All Peoples have somehow managed to bring a bit of green hope to the area.
Last February, I stopped by the center to learn more about their garden projects. With the help of Crystal Gonzalez, a Peace Education Coordinator fromAmerican Friends Service Committee (AFSC), youth at the center’s continuation high school and parents of kids in the center’s after-school programs built two small gardens. One is a learning site for students of the gardening and cooking class and the other has plots which are allotted to parents on a rotating basis. Students reported feeling like they had managed to create a little oasis in their neighborhood and parents enjoyed being able to share recipes with others and teach their children about health and where their food came from.
All Peoples sits in a densely populated area surrounded by freeways, trains, and industry. (Google map screen shot)
So, I was really excited when Crystal got in touch to tell me that students from the gardening class would be spending the morning building raised garden beds in the homes of two families in the neighborhood. The recipients were parents who had spent a year picking up gardening techniques at the center and who would now be turning their garden beds there over to a new set of parents so the cycle of learning could continue.
It wasn’t all going quite as planned, Crystal told me when I arrived to meet the students this morning. They didn’t have the key to access the room where the soil they had purchased for the project was being stored and police were hanging around one of the home sites, apparently looking for the male friend of a neighbor.
Undaunted, Crystal and the other mentors split the students into two groups and we all headed out.
My group, consisting of Austin (an intern with AFSC), Cathy (a former teacher and volunteer), and students Oscar, Melissa, Luk, and Leslie, walked about 5 blocks east over to Doña Mari’s home.
As we walked, we talked about what might have brought the police poking around so early in the morning. Oscar declared he was tired of being harassed by the police.
Gangs were obviously a problem in the area, he noted, but not everybody was a gangster and the police needed to do better than stop and hassle people like him all the time. He especially didn’t like them getting intrusive and asking him to lift up his shirt so they could check him for tattoos.
“Oh, yeah!” Melissa chimed in, saying that the same thing happened to her friend a lot, too.
Doña Mari, at right, looks on as students work in her new garden and teacher Elly drills holes in the lumber. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
So, it was a relief to find the only people waiting for us at the house were Doña Mari and her one-year old son, Elly (the gardening teacher), and Jorge (a volunteer and former student) who were busy preparing the lumber for the beds.
As Elly put the students to work leveling the soil, I sidled up to Doña Mari to get her thoughts on the project.
She was really pleased to have new garden beds, she told me in Spanish as she watched the students dig up the narrow space along the fence.
Her daughters were ten and thirteen years old and she wanted them to understand what growing food entailed.
When they see it in the supermarket, it is already done/ready, she explained. It is important that they see where it comes from.
They already enjoyed helping her harvest her produce at the All Peoples’ site and watching the few plants she grew at home blossom and develop over time, she said. And, she had managed to cultivate their appetites for fresh, home-grown food.
Which was a good thing considering the challenge of finding viable produce in her neighborhood.
Sometimes she went to the Trader Joe’s in Culver City, she said.
So far? I asked.
That particular Trader Joe’s is almost 9 miles away.
She shrugged.
They stopped there when they were in the area, she explained. Sometimes they tried Whole Foods, too. Even though they could only afford to get a few things there at a time, she thought it was important that she be able to give the kids organic produce when possible.
There’s also a farmers’ market here on Central and 43rd that people like to take advantage of, she said. And, when Curren Price asked us what we needed in the area (at a recent meeting with constituents), some of us asked him to put a farmers’ market here in the park on 23rd.
But around here, she gestured to the immediate area, there is nothing.
Melissa, Oscar, and Leslie get to work leveling the soil where the garden beds will be installed. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
When she went to help set up the hose for the students, I moved over to where Luk was dropping some spoken word on Austin.
“Do you do a lot of spoken word?” I asked.
Mature beyond his 20 years, it seemed like he does a little bit of everything. Having spent much of his younger years being moved around from place to place, he made it sound like reconnecting with school, the earth, and his inner voice were helping keep him grounded.
In fact, he explained, juvenile hall had helped him come to appreciate school.
“Huh?” I hadn’t heard anyone sound quite so upbeat about juvie before.
He had been removed from his home around age 14 because his brother had had some sort of psychotic break and was a danger to kids in the family, he explained. Most of the kids got placed with other relatives, but no one could take Luk in. So, he got put in foster care. At one point, something — it’s unclear what — went wrong with the foster care system and he and other foster kids were sent to juvenile hall.
He hadn’t done anything wrong, he said. The system just apparently got overburdened and that’s how cases like his were handled.
At least he and the others were put in a minimal security area, he reassured me, probably seeing the look of horror on my face at the idea that innocent kids with troubled families would be de facto jailed.
“It was only for a year…” he tried again.
“A year?”
Even when he said that being shepherded back and forth between school and juvie every day — meaning he couldn’t cut class — had helped put him on the path of being a better student, I still wasn’t comforted into thinking that this was a viable way to deal with good kids whose circumstances were no fault of their own.
He was saved from having to reassure me further by Crystal’s arrival. She had finally gotten hold of the key to the room with the soil and now she was here, armed with chicken fertilizer.
Luk and Jorge cheerfully headed out to the street to the grab bags from her car.
I marveled yet again at the resilience of the youth I meet in South L.A. and thanked the powers that be that there are advocates out there that take the time to tap into what the youth have to offer.
And, according to Luk, they have a lot to offer:
We are the seeds that grow beyond the garden
Towered over by this concrete jungle
Yet we bask in the sunlight,
Fed by the knowledge of those that came before
We thrive
Using what we’ve learned to maintain and to survive.
Students standing outside All Peoples grab gloves and tools to take to their worksites. (Luk is fourth from left) Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


This creative analytic, Amber Buchanan, finds great joy in the simple details involved in inspiring the great diversity in our world. Growing up in the unknown desert of Washington State, simplicity defined me, but interesting enticed me. As a student at Azusa Pacific University pursuing my bachelors in Global Studies, I am intrigued with experiencing different cultures. My recent experiences include living and working in Kona, Hawaii and immediately after moving to live this last summer in Naknak, Alaska working at a fishery. No culture is too obscure for my desire of understanding the world. I plan to cultivate diverse routes of thinking in a desire to write about my findings and share these new perspectives with those who do not have the chance to experience it themselves. In this endeavor, I plan to raise awareness of our differences by extinguishing the fire of hate and igniting a new love for humanity. I long to interpret diversity through the gathering of stories. What better route than growing food and health awareness together. Gardening and dirt brings me back to my roots and I am excited to see where AFSC's story and my story can grow together! 

Austin Welty

Hey I'm Austin Welty! I go to Azusa Pacific University and I'm interning for AFSC this fall. I'm excited to learn and teach food and peace education to high school students and make some great friends. Being healthy is key to living a vibrant life, and everyone deserves to be healthy and make healthy choices. I'm a positive person, and despite the overwhelming odds at times I believe in a better world. I can't wait to be a part of AFSC's mission and see the impact we will make on people's lives!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lemon Balm Tea

Hello My name is Joanna Farias . Im 19 years old. I'm a senior at Central High School graduating in the summer. Wanted to share a recipe for Lemon balm.

The first time I had it was actually the very day I made it!  We needed drinks for a school ceremony honoring our staff at the center. It was a last minute idea.  We were in need of some refreshments to give to our invited guests.  Not having much time before starting, and making the choice to not serve sugary drinks, it occurred to me to go into our school garden that AFSC helped build and maintain on a weekly basis.  We had some lemon-balm growing, so I took a risk and made some tea out of it. I was honored when many people enjoyed it.  

What I love about this tea is that it’s easy to make, its low on sugar, its healthy, refreshing, and great to share with invited guests.  It’s great for those hot summer afternoons.

1 gallon of water
12 sprigs of lemon balm
2 lemons thinly sliced (for color and added flavor)
¼ - ½ cup of sugar

First you boil the water, and add the lemon balm.  Boil the lemon balm for 20-25 minutes. Then you strain the tea to remove the tea leafs. Put it in the refrigerator as a quick method to cool down the tea. Minimum time 15 minutes. Afterwards you add sugar, ice, and slices of lemons. Finally, the tea is ready to serve iced cold or chilled. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Our Community Health Fair

By: Joanna Farias and Teresa Munguia                                                     Every year, All People's Community Center hosts a health fair for the community.  Each time, our class (Central High School) does its best to participate.  This year the health fair had a wide variety of booths to inform the community about the many resources available in our area.  There were many services offered such as free dental screenings, health demonstrations, and free food. The gym was packed with people of all ages from children to the elderly.

We were responsible for teaching our community about the garden that we have been working on for over 3 years. For example, we started by presenting a display of sugar cubes, as well as different types of junk foods including sodas, energy drinks, and candy.  We then led visitors in a guessing game: "How many sugar cubes do you think are in this soda?" When we show them the amount of sugar, many people exclaimed: "WOW!"

We asked them: "Would any of you eat this many sugar cubes? Everyone responded, "NO!" So instead, we gave them practical and healthy alternatives to make at home like homemade fruit water or "agua fresca." We wanted them to feel in control of what they consume by preparing good snacks at home. Afterwards, we led them outside on a tour of our beautiful garden.

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