‘Away’ is Somewhere – in Waterfront South

“We’re working with the children,” said Nancy Axelrod, Center for Environmental Transformation board member.  When you walk the blocks surrounding Sacred Heart Church and school and Center for Environmental CfETCamden_56Transformation in Camden’s Waterfront South neighborhood, you wonder whether an impact is felt despite all the best efforts of Father Michael Doyle, church members and volunteers.

Our toilets flush and the waste goes ‘away’ – to Camden. Waterfront South is home to several thousand residents and the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, the trash-to-steam plant, and other industries that spew particulates and bring trucks and tractor trailers chugging through the neighborhood.

Nancy Axelrod and center president Mark Doorley led  nine of us on a walking tour of a part of Waterfront South where the church, center and the non-profit housing company Heart of Camden have led programs to bring CfETCamden_15not just development and improvements, but hope in the lives of the men, women and children who have called Waterfront South home for generations.

You see the gardens where fresh fruits and vegetables grow through the summer  and in the greenhouse across from Sacred Heart and the outdoor brick oven where children learn cooking skills. Colorful murals, brightly decorated facades on row homes and newly planted trees in a park are signs of progress. Rain gardens have CfETCamden_20been planted to help prevent flooding, though carelessly discarded plastic bottles and trash are caught in the wildflowers meant to absorb flooding rains. A vacant home being renovated by a non-profit group is on its second incarnation since evil factions broke into the home tearing out all of the improved wires and pipes.

While we walked along South Broadway, you could imagine decades ago, how people would walk on the avenue to shop, stop at the bank, walk to church. Now, on a Saturday morning, there are few people on the streets; nearly every block or so, a prostitute stakes out his or her spot. The Heart of Camden homes that have been renovated and purchased shine like diamonds, but there aren’t nearly enough of those homes to make up for the derelict buildings, not to mention the brownfields and Superfund sites preventing real progress.

Yet, a community theatre, an arts center, a cafe and center for writers along CfETCamden_30with a new gym where children can safely play, exercise and grow are signs of hope and change. As Nancy said, it’s the children who can be the future of Waterfront South. They will learn to have pride and hope in their neighborhood and work for social justice thanks to the many people who understand and work in this village.

When You’re Away, Are You Really Gone?

I’m bbaaaackkk. Vacation is a beautiful thing. It clears the mind and refreshes the soul. The question is, how can you maintain that vacation state of mind once you get back to your life and work? I wish I had a great, insightful answer. I’m sure if I did, I’d be depositing a lot of checks and signing book deals.

The best I can offer is: try to add scenes from your vacation to your list of happy places to help you get through the day. Your happy place is where you go when life and work start closing in on you. The back of your neck gets tight. Deadlines abound and you feel as though you never went on vacation. Just stop;IMG_1877 close your eyes and remember something special from your vacation. For me it will be the sight of the clear, blue sea and the feel of the soft, white, warm sand under my feet. Also, my husband taking on the Flowrider and our encounter with Carlos the dolphin will be happy places for me.

Remembering all the happy places throughout your life help you get through the tough times. Think about the serenity, smiles, laughter and beauty that you see in all the places you visit.

It is those thoughts that help me tackle work as I get back to the routine this week. Normally, I will blog on Tuesdays and Fridays. So, I missed Tuesday and blogged today, Wednesday. The sky did not fall; no blood was shed; no lives were lost. I ended up working ten hours today and did get a lot done. Tomorrow is another day. Now, I rest and visit my happy places.