Collective Action In Northside Leads To ‘Telling True Stories In Tanzania’ Event
Seemingly disparate dreams, six-plus months of hard work and the support of hundreds of friends will culminate May 17 in Cincinnati’s Northside.
Last fall, Charitable Words was launched with the mission of “sharing stories of good being done by nonprofits and common causes.” The stories would include reports from the field about trends, success stories and best practices by Charitable Words Scholars assigned to work in Greater Cincinnati and around the globe. Since, more than a dozen scholar agreements have been awarded, completed or assigned. As Charitable Words achieves 501c3 nonprofit status, we hope there will be many more to come. But we needed to start somewhere.
Enter University of Cincinnati Journalism Professor Elissa Yancey, who told me last fall about a intensive semester-long cross-disciplinary seminar she would be teaching in the spring, aligned with UC’s School of Design, Architecture and Planning. The “boot camp” would include reporting, interviewing and writing for multimedia platforms and result in an interactive web site and related documentaries, “Telling True Stories in Tanzania.” The students would travel to East Africa to document the work of Village Life Outreach, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit that works in partnership with local villagers and leaders in Tanzania on projects related to education, health and nutrition and water purification.
She asked if Charitable Words would support sending Village Life’s then-executive director, Richard Elliott (pictured in Tanzania) on the trip to help guide the project. Elissa, a good friend, Northsider and Charitable Words advisory board member, has recommended several of the interns who have been assigned. She’s not missed on one recommendation. All have been fantastic. So the answer, of course, was yes. Let’s do it.
OK, stay with me. Now it gets complicated, yet so simple in many ways.
At the same time friend Laura Chenault was hammering nails and painting walls in a converted Northside warehouse that would become an event and urban kitchen space. Pallet 23 has gotten off to a great start, hosting networking events, cooking classes, yoga brunches and Sunday night dinners featuring the area’s top chefs.
And down the street on Blue Rock Road, Peggy Shannon was converting the 1865-built St. Pius X Church and its gym into a retail bakery production facility. Since, Queen City Cookies has exploded in exposure on a national scale, including mentions in Oprah’s magazine and Huffington Post, regaling QCC’s beloved schnecken and more. But it’s a Northside business that has not forgotten its roots or lost its passion to invest in community causes.
So it’s fitting, fate or magic that Charitable Words and Queen City Cookies, along with other friends, will be at Pallet 23 to support the premiere showing of “Telling True Stories: Tanzania” and updates on Village Life’s work that the students from UC produced.
“It was a life-changing experience for the students, and for me,” Yancey said. “We learned so much from the trip and from the time spent before and after. Our Tanzanian partners were kind, generous, thoughtful and most of all, happy. Their appreciation for daily life and their willingness to share their stories was truly remarkable.”
It seems so long ago that Charitable Words was an empty white board in a small downtown office. Laura was standing in sawdust in the sparse warehouse, pointing to where the kitchen would be. Peggy was keeping the faith in a 14,500 square foot church complex that would be reborn, with sweet devotion. Elissa and the students were getting passports and travel plans started for Tanzania.
This case study in collective action is all coming together May 17 at Pallet 23 starting with an exhibit preview at 6.p.m. and a reception at 7. Final short documentaries produced by Yancey’s class, along with a longer documentary, “Schooled: Lessons about Learning in Tanzania” will be shown and refreshments served. The event is free and open to the public, but there will be opportunities to support the life-changing programs of Village Life Outreach, Yancey said.
And please, spread the Charitable Words.