This summer, Unearth the World (UTW) began planning local Chicago volunteer opportunities to allow alums, families, students and professionals an opportunity to learn from their own community. This local programming came from a realization that the Chicago community is engaged and passionate but that it is sometimes difficult to find ways to connect and serve meaningfully. At Unearth the World we started asking ourselves: “How can we recreate our international model on a local level? How can we help people multiply their impact?”
Last week, UTW took a big step by planning an entire day of volunteering for MSL Chicago – a global public relations and integrated communications organization. Twenty-one energetic MSL Chicago professionals – armed with donated shovels and supplies – dedicated an afternoon to learning, volunteering and enjoying a local Unearth the World partner program.
This group began their local experience by engaging with Unearth the World’s pre-trip training. Kathryn – UTW’s founder – educated the group about the problem that many Chicago communities are facing related to a lack of availability of fresh food. Kathryn introduced the group to the term food desert – defined by the USDA as a part of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. She then brought the MSL Chicago group to OTIS Fresh Farm – a community garden in the Bronzeville neighborhood focused addressing the food desert problem head on! OTIS Fresh Farms provides affordable access to healthy food to underserved communities under a variety of efforts: health education, food growth, community buildings, and economic development.
The MSL Chicago professionals engaged in hands on service by planting spinach, preparing several beds for the winter months, transporting mulch, harvesting tomatoes and having a ball alongside Steve Hughes – the founder of OTIS Fresh Farm and Ed Hubbard – the self proclaimed “worm guy” from Nature’s Little Recyclers who heads up the farm’s composting efforts.
The group capped off the day with a delicious farm-to-table dinner at Bib Gourmand restaurant, Pleasant House Pub in the Pilsen neighborhood. This lovely end to a rewarding day was made even better when Art – one of the restaurant’s founders – spent time with the group to explain his approach to farm-to-table dining and sustainability.
Effy, an MSL Chicago Account Executive, put her experience into words:
“When you live in Chicago, it’s easy to get stuck in the bubble of your own neighborhood. It’s also easy to forget that your neighbors do not always have access to the same resources you do. Teaming up with Unearth the World allowed me to see a limitation that is right in my backyard. Just 20 minutes from where I work, getting fresh and healthy food is not as easy as walking into a supermarket. After hearing the struggle that so many face and meeting Steve Hughes, founder of OTIS Fresh Farm, I have a new perspective on how to help others. Volunteering at the community farm was a great gift and I can’t wait to go back!”
Unearth the World is proud to take this big step towards facilitating local projects that catalyze changemakers. Our mission has always been to elevate social consciousness and cultivate learning through volunteering. And while we will continue to work tirelessly with our international partners, we look forward to continuing to cultivate local relationships to allow members of the Chicago community to give back in their own back yard.