ioby’s Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge is launching loud and proud this week. We’re super excited to be partnering with the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHF) to support citizen leaders in nine neighborhoods and cities across New York as they take an active role in creating a culture of health where they live. Extra excitingly, the first $200 of each gift supporters like you make to their campaigns will be matched dollar-for-dollar by NYSHF through September 30!
This week on the blog, we’re profiling five fantastic projects that show the Challenge’s range of styles and locales. “The Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge pulls together many of the types of civic engagement projects ioby has long loved to support, and links them under the banner of improving community health,” says Ethany Uttech, ioby’s Leader Action Strategist & Partnership Manager. “Everything from nutrition education to park advocacy to healthy exercise is represented here, in projects as fun-sounding as a river rowing club for urban youth, a smoothie pop-up stand that blends local produce, and a weekly family line dancing party in the park.”
The Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge also hits another important note for us: like all ioby projects, it puts real resident leaders in the driver’s seat. We believe that the people who live in a neighborhood know what’s best for it, are poised to be its best stewards, and should be encouraged to step forward and take a leadership role in its development. They’re most in touch with what their community needs, and have the biggest stake in making it better for the long run.
We hope you enjoy these profiles of some of The Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge’s coolest projects. See them all at ioby.org/healthy, and remember that your gift will be matched until the end of this month!
“I want to take the good developments happening in the rest of Brooklyn and bring them to Brownsville, which has been largely left behind,” says Krishna Davenport of her Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge project Baobab Fit – Brownsville. Her idea was inspired by the recent “daytime parties” trend, but adds a particular focus on wellness for moms of color in this Brooklyn neighborhood—moms who otherwise might not have ready access to such events. (The project also takes inspiration from the venerable Baobab tree, also known as “The Tree of Life”—a species native to Africa that produces nutrient-dense fruit, provides shelter for people and animals, and can live for thousands of years.)
“We mothers don’t get a lot of our own time,” Krishna explains. “This is a moment to be ourselves, and to do something good for ourselves.” Her monthly wellness workshops will feature three workout stations, a chef preparing healthy meals (“not just salad!”), a Reiki practitioner (“to read people’s energy and help them refocus”), and a DJ (“it is a party, after all!”). There will also be HIV testing and on-site babysitting—at no charge.
“Baobab Fit events are designed to give you a quick burst of energy,” Krishna says. “They’re 90 minutes: long enough to make an impact, but short enough that you still have the rest of your day. I want women to leave with a refreshed feeling about who they are are as a person, not just as someone’s mother or wife.”
Krishna grew up in Brownsville and enjoyed an active childhood—playing tennis and dancing with Dance Theatre of Harlem—that continued into her adult years. When she was 30, her husband was diagnosed with diabetes, which was a big wake-up call. “We realized it’s not just an old person’s disease,” she says. Krishna started talking to people about diabetes and about how they could heal from its effects by leading a healthier life.
She even started a blog about healthy living, Baobab Wellness, and readers began to ask her why she didn’t hold a workshop or class. First she replied that she didn’t have the time, but finally she tried organizing one event, and it was a smash hit. So she kept going.
“I’ve done these events all over Brooklyn,” Krishna says. “For the past two years, I’ve wanted to bring them to Brownsville, and this is my chance.” She now lives in Hempstead, Long Island and works on Wall Street, but is still a big Brownsville booster. “It’s hard when you come from here and leave and then try to come and give back,” she says. “People think it might be out of pity, because Brownsville doesn’t have the best reputation right now. But it’s not; it’s out of love. I have the most love and the most pride for my neighborhood. I want other past and present residents to see and share in that. I want other people to love it, too.”
Krishna says she can see that the kids in her old neighborhood don’t have the best access to healthy food, and that moms don’t have a lot of positive outlets for their stress. “I know that not every kid who grows up in Brownsville is getting the opportunities I had,” she says, “so I want this project to take off and become a regular occurrence: from once a month, to twice a month, to once a week! I want people to look forward to it, for new people and regulars to come participate and make connections—about wellness, but also about the neighborhood, about finances, about schools, about local businesses, about making change… This is about physical health, but also about the social health of the community.”
“I want everyone to support healthy changes in Brownsville from within Brownsville,” Krishna says. “That the support comes from within is very important to me.”
Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.