Castleberry Hills Mural Project
When one thinks about community service projects, oftentimes images of feeding the homeless or picking up litter come to mind. But sometimes an idea for a service project comes along that encourages us to zoom out and take a universal look at what community service means and how it affects us.
On Saturday, August 27, Civic Engagement held its annual Panther Community Plunge by leading a group of student volunteers to help paint a mural welcoming everyone to the Castleberry Hills neighborhood in west Atlanta. Local artists painted outlines on a wall near the main thoroughfare of Northside Drive for the students to come and fill with color. Participants met on campus at 9 a.m. and walked to the mural wall together, collecting litter on the street along the way.
Throughout the day of painting, mixing colors and chatting about classes, no one stopped to question the purpose of why they were there until the end of the day when students gathered to discuss their experience. Neighborhood beautification affects a community in subtle yet important ways. When pedestrians see a clean street, they are less likely to toss their litter on it. When business owners see well-kept buildings, they are more likely to set up shop in that area. When people see an artistically decorated wall dedicated to the neighborhood they live in, they are less likely to vandalize it. And when a resident sees the result of effort by his neighbors to improve the area in which he lives, he is more likely to care and make productive contributions to the community.
The most common themes of community service are often reflected in the symptomatic conditions caused by a cycle of societal breakdowns. It is easy to see the homeless person and why he needs help, but a holistic approach to community building is necessary to break the string of events that led him to his circumstances. Neighborhood beautification is but one aspect of this approach, yet it is a simple, straightforward enough activity that should be highly achievable. If a volunteer can start with straightforward task such as painting a wall and have a good experience, this may inspire them as well as the passerby who now feels more pride in his community.
Conversations about poverty and social dysfunction often involve a discussion of the cause-and-effect chain of events leading to a person’s desperate condition. While this is one important consideration in community service, the universal approach must also consider how to use the cause-and-effect concept to uplift people. Perhaps the first link in that chain is a simple feeling of inspiration, one that could begin with something as small and achievable as watching a community come together to beautify their neighborhood.