Residents transform Chicago's West Englewood neighborhood – one block at a time


When he returned the next day, residents came out with the question, "When do we start?"

"It's a locked, isolated community," said Carroll, who taught yoga to public school children in neighboring areas.

In 2013 she decided to see for herself what is happening in the neighborhood. He saw the empty houses, the houses they had boarded, the people who didn't go out. But that wasn't all – he saw potential.

"I saw the light of community inside and … a place for hope and healing," Carroll said.

So, he created a community-based organization run by the community. It's called I Grow Chicago and has since worked to transform the neighborhood from survival to thriving, one block at a time.

They began by acquiring a foreclosed block house and joined forces with community members to renovate it. The result was the House of Peace.

"We are an open door policy," he said. "We serve everyone in the community."

At Peace House, people of all ages find a range of resources and support. There are teaching and postgraduate programs. yoga and meditation lessons. laundry and meal programs. and help with things like writing a resume or getting an ID.

Community members and volunteers run all programs aimed at combating the traumatic effects of violence and poverty.

"We will work through everything that holds you back to become the person and potential you need to be," Carroll said.

Quentin Mables was one of the first members of the community to participate. A lifelong resident of Englewood, he lost many friends to shoot the violence and knew his community was worth better. She is now the executive director of the organization, which has helped families feel safer and hundreds of residents improve their lives.

The team is now in the process of building a Peace Federation. Already, he has installed a basketball court along with a garden that provides fresh food for the neighborhood's residents. Family Wellness House recently opened and a Lot Nature Play will be completed later this fall.

For Carroll, the goal is to continue to encourage connectivity and worthiness, and from there come growth opportunities.

"Until you start healing, you cannot have service for yourself or your community," Carroll said. "We see change, and we do it one breath, one seed, one family at a time."

CNN's Laura Klairmont spoke with Carroll about her work. Below is a version of their conversation.

CNN: Chicago remains a very racially divided city. What does it look like and what impact does it have on communities?

Robbin Carroll: Chicago is a very divided city. I live in the city center and (it's) beautiful. We have parks and you can walk to any restaurant. There is access and opportunity and exposure to hope and life.

The South Side and the West Bank are communities that are disintegrating. The obstacles that people in Englewood face are probably all the repression that is possible. Healthcare is a privilege. Wellbeing, even thinking about it, is a privilege. Access to education, transportation, food, opportunities, resources – it's a desert of all these things.

The CNN hero Robbin Carroll

Every Monday morning, there is news of how many people were shot and killed. And I couldn't cover my head that this was the city I lived in and that I didn't do anything about it. The violence causes a lot of trauma that has a really huge effect. People being shot – this is someone's father and mother and brother.

If you want to understand a problem, get to. So, I started coming to community and volunteering. The first thing I thought about was that it was six miles from my house and that was unacceptable. The violence had just really taken over.

CNN: What is the wisdom council and what is their role?

Carroll: It came about because we thought the community should solve the conflict. So we ended up becoming one of the old blocks from each block – we met and then we spent the next year doing workouts.

The wisdom council shares with us how they would like to see the community and we go to them with our problems. If someone steals and gets caught, the community will go to the wisdom board and say, "How do you want to handle this?" They share all their knowledge because we are lucky enough to have lived through it.

The seniors wanted to be able to say alderman [city council member] what's going on in our community and what we need to fix. So they started a hiking club. They walk and control each other. make sure they stop and share. And they write everything they want in their community. They met with Almerman once a month and told him what they needed.

CNN: What are you trying to achieve in the Peace Corps and how have you ensured that the local community is leading these efforts?

Carroll: I Grow Chicago started with the crazy idea of ​​the community getting back and healing the process. We're like grandma's house. You can come for anything. We are an open space to explore who you want to follow. I always say, "Have a hug." If we have food, you can have food. And we're a place where you can come in and say, "I can't read or I'm in a really bad place." We help people find meaningful employment.

Our community has really helped us build it and shape it. everyone had a role in the location of the house there. We deal with and grow with the community. The community wanted to buy more homes and more. The community really wanted a place to play. And so, we listened. This year has been a playground for our children, so we have a playground. We needed a wellness home so that our women and families would have a safe place to go and be quiet.

Our mission is to move from survival to prosperity. My hopes and dreams for this community are what they hope for and dream about.

Do you want to get involved? Checkout the I Grow Chicago website and see how to help.
To donate to I Grow Chicago via CrowdRise, Click here