Reflections: Summer Intern Derek Gallo

by Derek Gallo, Summer 2017 Intern, Notre Dame

“IT’S A WORM!” shrieks a voice that let’s the whole neighborhood know. The voice belies the tiny body of JJ who has spent all his life in the city. The look of fascination on his face for this worm is like the look of an explorer discovering extraterrestrial life. With serious hands  JJ fills a plastic cup with dirt and relocates the worm to its new home. Now that he has created the perfect growing environment, he tenderly plants a stick of celery. His wonder is contagious.

Our theme for the week is Cultivate Beauty, focused on discovering and creating beauty in the neighborhood. A major part of the beauty of the northside Syracuse community is its gardens. Postage stamp yards brim with nepali lettuces which spill onto the porch in plastic milk jugs and baking trays. To see beauty in a neighborhood where it is easy to see only poverty and ugliness takes a mental readjustment but is so important to the mission of Hopeprint: empowering resettled refugees to thrive.

Earlier that day we went to the community garden only a block away from 129 Lilac St. We named and watered all the vegetables growing there and the children discovered a passion for raw green beans. They chomped on handfuls of green beans with the same delight with which the eat chips from the corner store.

I think of the refugee families who have been transplanted to the new soil of Syracuse. I feel the same wonder that JJ did when I see the resilience of these families and how they can flourish.

It doesn’t take much. A plastic cup, a stick of celery, and JJ’s curiosity become a lesson in agriculture. A vacant lot with some hours of labor becomes a community garden empowering the children to take ownership of what they eat. In one of the strangest metaphors ever, Hopeprint is the worm that tries to improve the soil. And our families do the thriving.