Local Residents Work to Transform their Community

The sun hid behind the clouds early in the morning, but everyone was alert with their drills, buckets, or shovels in hand. Eager children as young as four hurried back and forth like ants carrying buckets of soil. Committed parents and friends shoveled heavy soil or helped assemble thick wooden planks together. Later, children and adults cradled seeds and small plants in their palms while carefully choosing the best locations for their future crops. Indeed, on Saturday June 7th, 2014 forty community members and Esperanza Community Housing Corporation gathered to finish their community garden project. Among the forty people present there was a sense of collective responsibility and unity. The day transformed from a cloudy morning to a bright, sunny day and the hours seemed to slip by- most of the community members arrived at the park by nine in the morning and worked until two in the afternoon.


Children at Richardson Park
Courtesy of Sandy Navarro and Angelica Romero

Collective gardens create opportunities for individuals to network and share experiences, create a sense of community, and build community leaders. Especially in South Los Angeles, where access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs are scarce, the opportunities that gardens offer are invaluable. Recognizing their significance, Esperanza invested in their second community garden project to further promote the idea of eating responsibility and help establish a sustainable food system that serves their respective communities regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, or any other background.

The community gleamed with the satisfaction of creating a garden for themselves. Their dedication was not only present that day; the adults and families already demonstrated their dedication by attending weekly meetings where they learned basic gardening skills. Looking around the finished product, Ruth Andrade, an active community member and the Richardson Park organizer shared, “It’s important that our children know how to plant, grow, and maintain seeds. They are tired and realizing how difficult this is, so I think they will want to invest and take care of the garden. (“Es importante para que nuestros hijos sepan cómo plantar semillas, como crecenlos, y cómo cuidarlos. Se estan cansando y saben lo difícil que es, entonces pienso que ellos van a tener esas metas para cuidar el jardín.”).” The garden at Richardson Park is yet another reason for neighborhood children to come to play, as well as a place for individuals and families alike to come together and grow fresh fruit and vegetables.


Courtesy of Sandy Navarro and Angelica Romero

Esperanza’s Gardening Projects, Semillas de Esperanza (Seeds of Hope), is led by Coordinator Sandy Navarro.The project is an initiative to improve community health by educating community members on how to live a healthy lifestyle, and by providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables by means of planting edible gardens in South Los Angeles. Over the past few months, Sandy has worked to engage community residents in creating their gardens and connecting them with the necessary resources to ensure project sustainability. The first garden was at the Villa Esperanza (Villa), and Richardson Park is Semillas de Esperanza’s second site.

For more information on how you can get involved in our Semillas de Esperanza Project, please contact our Project coordinator:

Sandy Navarro, Gardening Project Coordinator Email: Sandy@esperanzacommunityhousing,org.

You can also support the garden project by making a donation of plants, trees and gardening supplies or funding to sustain our gardens here: donations welcome.

Semillas de Esperanza (Seeds of Hope)

Semillas de Esperanza by Esperanza Intern, Grecia Reyes

“To change a community, you have to change the composition of the soil…we are the soil”— (Ron Finley,urban farmer in South LA)

Residents and Volunteers at Villa Esperanza first planting session.

Residents and Volunteers at Villa Esperanza’s first planting session.

Walking through the streets of South Los Angeles, one comes across an overabundance of food chains and liquor stores, offering men, women, and children unhealthy foods. The food is often fried and overcooked, in addition to products carrying high levels of fat, sugar, salts, carbohydrates, and oil. In South Los Angeles, the inaccessibility to healthy nutritious food and access to supermarkets are a constant problem for the working class. Residents often shop at convenience stores, where fresh foods selection is limited or overpriced.

Eating can be a spiritual act that connects people to the earth and to those that cultivate and produce the food we eat. It can also send out an invitation for community engagement and social change. The act of eating conscientiously can call for the breaking of geographic lines that result from economic vulnerability and systems of power that control the food industry. The families within our affordable housing communities have voiced their desire to grow and sustain their own foods. At Esperanza, we understand that eating justly has to do with the active practice of eating responsibly and creating a sustainable food system that serves all communities, disregarding location and social-economic status.

Semillas de Esperanza is a community driven gardening project bringing fresh food to our families! 

garden photo 2 habanero

Semillas de Esperanza (Seeds of Hope), led by Esperanza’s Gardening Project Coordinator, Sandy Navarro is an  initiative  to increase community access to fresh fruits and vegetables by means of planting edible gardens in South Central Los Angeles. Over the past few months, Sandy has been working on mobilizing community residents to discuss the development of the gardens and connecting them with the necessary resources to ensure project sustainability. The first garden has already been initiated at Villa Esperanza (Villa) as a communal garden in addition to assigned garden boxes.

"El Abuelo"

“El Abuelo”

Gregorio Puga is also known as El Abuelo (the grandfather) of the community, has been a resident at Villa for over 20 years. Throughout the day, you can find him either amending soils or watering and nurturing his plants. He has used all of the spaces available in Villa to create small edible gardens. Abuelo is originally from Yucatan, Mexico. Here he worked as a jardinero (gardener) for many years in the wealthy neighborhoods of Los Angeles and southern California communities. For him, gardening is about living a healthier life style, saving money, learning to appreciate what the land produces in order to re-distribute it to the community.

Abuelo reminds us that gardening is about our relationship with the land, acknowledging that, “God created the land and put humans into a garden.” Abuelo sees this as a lesson on how to be working stewards; because the land produces life and sustains us, but we must be willing in turn to cultivate and sustain the land. It is for this reason that gardening calls for thoughtfulness, gentleness, and justice

Be a part of our Semillas Project by volunteering in our next planting or workshop session. For more information on how you can get involved in our Semillas Project, please contact our Project coordinator:

Sandy Navarro, Gardening Project Coordinator Email: Sandy@esperanzacommunityhousing,org.
You can also support the garden project by making a donation of plants, trees and gardening supplies or funding to sustain our gardens, donations welcome.

May is Asthma Awareness Month

Did you know: The highest rate of ED visits for asthma in LA County is in the 0-4 yr old age group. Or that Hispanic children are less likely to receive an asthma action plan upon discharge from an asthma hospitalization?

Join us on Tuesday May 20, 2014 at 801 West 23rd Street in South Los Angeles to learn more about the environmental hazards that are causing asthma in our community! Speakers will include Dr. Richard Jackson, Professor and Chair of Environmental Health at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Jim Mangia, CEO of St. John’s Family Medical Clinic, Nancy Halpern Ibrahim Executive Director of Esperanza Community Housing and 3 community members representing communities affected by Allenco, Murphy, West Adams and Baldwin Hills drilling sites. The event will also include asthma screenings by the Breathmobile and free refreshments!

To learn more about asthma and how you can get involved in asthma awareness contact Loretta Worthington at 213-639-6459

WAD flyer 2014 FINAL


Los Angeles Moves Closer To City Fracking Moratorium


The Huffington Post  | by  James Gerken

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Friday to advance a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in the nation’s second-largest city.

The motion passed Friday instructs the city’s attorney to draft new zoning regulations that would prohibit fracking and other oil- and gas-well stimulation techniques within city limits until fracking companies can provide city officials with assurances as to future water quality, and can “mitigate the effects on climate change, protect environmental quality and natural resources, promote community awareness [and] “allow government access to and testing of chemicals used.”

“This is about neighborhood safety, about public health and most of all, about common sense,” Council Member Mike Bonin said in an emailed statement. Bonin co-introduced the motion last September with fellow member Paul Koretz. “We cannot continue to allow the safety of our neighborhoods to be jeopardized by dangerous drilling,” Bonin added.

Anti-fracking activists joined Bonin and Koretz in the Los Angeles City Hall rotunda on Friday after the council’s vote.

Nalleli Cobo testifies in front of LA City Counceil to end facking and oil extraction in her community

People Not Pozos – Nalleli Cobo testifies in front of LA City Council to end facking and oil extraction in her community. 

The office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti did not immediately offer any comment on the council’s vote.

Some of the active oil fields around Los Angeles are outside city limits, so the moratorium will not eliminate all fracking operations within Los Angeles County.

Fracking, which has become common in states like Pennsylvania, Texas, North Dakota and others in recent years, is a technique for extracting oil and gas from shale rock formations. After drilling a well, large quantities of water, sand and chemicals are injected into the ground to fracture the shale and release hydrocarbons.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the state’s first fracking regulations into law last September. The rules, which went into effect at the beginning of this year, require companies to seek permits for fracking, to disclose what chemicals are used and to monitor air and water quality. Yet environmental groups hoped for stricter regulations and a proposed statewide moratorium was removed from the legislation.

Twenty-eight of California’s 58 counties produce oil or natural gas, or both. Fracking has been documented in 10 of them, according to the Center of Biological Diversity.

Despite concerns about surface and groundwater contamination risks from fracking, as well as its significant water consumption in drought-prone areas, California’s Department of Conservation maintains that there has been “no reported damage to the environment” in “more than 30 years” of hydraulic fracturing in the state.