Welcome Project Receives Award

Ginny Callan from NEGEF (second from left) presents The Welcome Project with the "Outstanding Community Group Award" on April 6.On April 6, The Welcome Project received an “Outstanding Community Group Award” at the 2009 Southern New England Environmental Action Annual Conference held at Wentworth College in Boston.

Ginny Callan, the Massachusetts and Vermont Program Officer for the New England Grassroots Environment Fund (NEGEF) presented the award to The Welcome Project. “The New England Grassroots Environment Fund has been very impressed by the Welcome Project’s work in their environmental justice community and specifically in supporting and assisting the Mystic Housing Community Garden in its needs to relocate,” Callan said.

“The New England Grassroots Environment Fund has been very impressed by the Welcome Project’s work in their environmental justice community" -- Ginny Callan

“This vibrant garden is a magnet in drawing community members together and provides both learning opportunities and lots of locally grown organic produce for the community.”

Accepting on behalf of the Welcome Project were Warren Goldstein-Gelb, executive director, Maria Landaverde, youth programs organizer, and Roberta Hayes, volunteer garden education coordinator.

“When I first arrived at the Welcome Project after working on environmental justice issues in Roxbury, the gardeners were really concerned about their future,” said Warren Goldstein-Gelb, in accepting the award. “The Somerville Housing Authority was closing the old garden because of new construction at the Mystic Housing Development. They had promised a new garden would be built, but there were many unanswered questions. We needed help.”

Because of his many years with a grassroots environmental justice group, Goldstein-Gelb knew he could turn to NEGEF. “NEGEF’s support was absolutely critical in enabling us to work with the gardeners to develop a plan for their new space, negotiate with the Housing Authority, and make critical connections in the community,” said Goldstein-Gelb.

Last summer, the Welcome Project (TWP) , along with volunteers from the community and with the assistance of the Housing Authority, celebrated the opening of a new, relocated garden at the Mystic.

The new Mystic Community Garden includes 21 plots. Among them is a new Kids Garden, a collaboration with The Mystic Learning Center, an after-school program at the Mystic. Through the Kids Garden, a new generation from immigrant families is getting their hands dirty and learning about how to protect the environment.

The Mystic Community Garden started more than 20 years ago, as Vietnamese immigrants first began moving into the Mystic after state ordered desegregation in 1985. The tenants, used to gardening in Vietnam were looking for ways to continue their tradition here. After helping to obtain the use of some land owned by the Somerville Housing Authority, the Welcome Project continued to work with the gardeners and help manage the garden. Today’s garden includes tenants from Viet Nam, Haiti, Brazil, El Salvador, and China. In addition to the Garden,

The Welcome Project provides programs that strive to connect basic services with opportunities for community engagement. These include the Liaison Interpreters Program of Somerville (LIPS), which trains bilingual high school students to assist with interpretation at community meetings. TWP also offers English classes for adults and, through the First Generation to College Program, works with youth and parents from immigrant families to help fulfill their aspirations of attending a college or university after high school.