When We Walk Together and With God, Nothing is Impossible
The past few months we have talked a lot about ‘sowing Seeds of Hope’ through Community Projects. But what does it really look like – in real life – to ‘sow a seed of hope’ ? It starts small: An Urban Mosaic Community Organizer delivers a food basket to a neighbor, invites someone to a workshop on diabetes, or coordinates a street clean-up project. And though it starts small, planting these ‘seeds’ yields some incredible results.
Today we are excited to share an interview with Rafaela Tapia, a community leader and member of one of UM’s Neighborhood Committees on Calle Jesús in San José las Palmas.
Starting out small
UM: How did your Neighborhood Committee get its start?
Rafaela: The Neighborhood Committee on my street, Calle de Jesús, was formed in 2019 with the intention of creating change on our street. As we got to know Urban Mosaic and all of UM’s different projects, we fell in love with the idea of coming together to improve our neighborhood.
We started with a drainage project. After lots of meetings with the neighbors on our block, we finally achieved our goal of installing a drainage system. Our street is on a hill, so having a drainage system immediately started to improve things. Next was the installation of a neighborhood alarm system, which had a considerable impact on diminishing neighborhood crime and insecurity.
Momentum kept growing
Momentum for the Neighborhood Committee continued to grow. After the success of the neighborhood alarm and security system, we took on a very large project: paving our street. It was a huge undertaking with lots of planning and meetings, but we did it. It was not easy by any means. This was a large and expensive project in an area where community members have very little money. But we were motivated and committed and eventually our dream of having a paved street come true!
"We, as neighbors, can transform our community!"
UM: When the Neighborhood Committee started, why did you get involved? What made you decide to do more with UM and for your community?
Rafaela: When the neighborhood meetings started with Urban Mosaic, the focus was always on creating a Neighborhood Committee. I was very drawn to the idea that I could get involved and actually help make my street look better.
The neighbors needed someone to help coordinate, and when the committee was created, they chose me to be the treasurer. I helped collect money from the neighbors, buy materials, manage resources, and provided reports of income and expenses. The neighbors trusted me, and I never let them down. The formation of the Urban Mosaic Neighborhood Committee on my street changed the way we saw change in ourselves, our community and street.
"The formation of the Neighborhood Committee helped change our mindsets that 'the government has to do everything.’ Now we know that we can organize and we are capable of doing things ourselves. We, as neighbors, can transform our community!"
A New mindset
UM: How has the [pavement] project impacted the community?
Rafaela: Oh, the impact is incredible.
Sometimes people get discouraged and give up hope… They say “this is too big, it’s impossible, we’ll never get there.”But in this project, the neighbors gave it all their strength and dedication. There were many grey days where we didn’t know if we would finish it or not. But, thanks to God, we did it.
The formation of the Neighborhood Committee helped change our mindsets that ‘the government has to do everything.’ Now we know that we can organize and we are capable of doing things ourselves. We, as neighbors, can transform our community!
UM: Now, when you leave your house and see the paved street, where do you notice a difference?
Rafaela: The difference is very notable. So many of the people in neighboring streets want to replicate the project we did here. Seeing the new street — leaving to go walk around without hurting my feet on loose rocks — is a blessing.
"Before, we had to walk cautiously, and running was dangerous. Our shoes were all dirty because of the street, and when it rained, we would slip on the mud and hurt ourselves. It wasn't a good life.
Now, I want to go out, take a stroll and go chat with neighbors!"