[By: Marie Davis, Burlington, VT]
TigerMountain Foundation, south Phoenix, Arizona
The Garden of Tomorrow, is here today
Jane Kendall and I took a day off the Climate March to meet Darren Chapman, the spirited visionary and founder of TigerMountain Foundation, at one of their gardens in a string of green being created along an otherwise bleak stretch of busy road in south Phoenix. We arrived a bit early to find the gate open, so we decided to take that as an invitation to go on in, have a look around, and soak in the beautifully cool greenery on the other side of that fence; an oasis built with the power of Tenacity, Integrity, Greatness, Empowerment and Resiliency. I choose these words to describe this garden oasis because they are the core values that put the TIGER in TigerMountain. Using the model of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) and a good dose of hardy determination, TMF is cultivating more than fruits and veggies. They are working within their community to bring financial literacy, micro-business & workforce development, as well as behavioral health and substance abuse education to the community.
Relaxing on a platform stage that sees regular community talent, we had the pleasure of visiting with Darren about how the TMF gardens and programs came into being, told with all the passion and insight of his personal story woven in. He shared some of the challenges he had growing up in south Phoenix with its high rate of recidivism, poverty and violence. He recognized the need to cultivate self-worth, good health and community inter-connectedness to better the climate of the community in a sustaining way.
When I joined the Climate March, I was looking at the need for climate action in terms of the way our lifestyles and carbon consumption are wreaking havoc on the natural world. Then, at the beginning of the march in LA, I learned about the concept of climate justice and recognized that there are many people living in the areas of the densest pollution and receiving none of the benefit. What I learned from Darren and his work with the TMF is yet another approach and view of climate change and action. They are changing the climate in each person they touch by reconnecting them with their inherent value as a human on the planet; bringing them right back to the earth and elements through physical work in the gardens. They are giving them an opportunity to experience personal and collective pride when they bring their goods to market and sell them, uplifting the spirit of their community through the ‘come one come all’ attitude at their performance arts events right there in the garden. They are showing what the power of love and the personal pride that comes from valued contributions to community can do…Winning!
When it came to go, we were hit by a wall of Arizona heat on the other side of the garden gate. I left refreshed though, having drank in the beauty and rightness of what a small group of committed people are creating. Darren wished us well on our cross-country journey. I wish them all the best in the life affirming work they are doing. I will carry their story with me and share it along the way.
Yours, with visions of a vibrant planet,
Marie Davis ~ Burlington, Vt. ~ One Earth Village
If you would like to learn more about this inspiring work, or wish to get involved or support this effort, check it out at www.tigermountainfoundation.org.