Trans­form­ing Com­mu­ni­ties: How Peo­ple Like You Are Heal­ing Their Neigh­bor­hoods

Sand­hya Rani Jha

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction - BARRY SIL­VER­STEIN

Chal­ice Press (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $15.99 (144pp)


Jha’s sto­ries of com­mu­nity-based change are both in­spir­ing and in­for­ma­tive.

Sand­hya Jha’s Trans­form­ing Com­mu­ni­ties demon­strates how or­di­nary peo­ple can come to­gether to dra­mat­i­cally im­prove their com­mu­ni­ties.

As the di­rec­tor of the Oak­land Peace Cen­ter, a non­profit col­lec­tive, Sand­hya Jha has first­hand knowl­edge of what it takes to or­ga­nize and im­ple­ment a com­mu­nity-based ef­fort. In this timely book, she plays the role of a dif­fer­ent kind of or­ga­nizer, as­sem­bling and telling the sto­ries of sev­eral com­mu­nity ef­forts that started with the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of a need and the will­ing­ness of ded­i­cated peo­ple to meet it.

Each of the in­struc­tive chap­ters high­lights a dif­fer­ent ini­tia­tive. The ar­eas of need are di­verse; they range from ad­dress­ing home­less­ness to as­sist­ing re­turn­ing veter­ans to es­tab­lish­ing com­mu­nity gardens. Of­ten, it is one in­di­vid­ual who cham­pi­ons the ef­fort, but that per­son’s vi­sion is quickly em­braced by oth­ers in the com­mu­nity.

The Re­cov­ery Café San Jose, for ex­am­ple, was started by a church pas­tor to help peo­ple con­front their ad­dic­tions. At the café’s core are the “re­cov­ery cir­cles,” which ev­ery mem­ber must at­tend to deal with chal­lenges from home­less­ness to men­tal-health is­sues. They are shown to ben­e­fit from shar­ing meals, at­tend­ing classes, or get­ting on-site sup­port. The author shares ex­cerpts from her in­ter­view with the pas­tor; her story, like oth­ers in the book, both in­spires and in­forms.

Each story is unique and stands alone, but all con­cern help­ing a com­mu­nity in some way. At the end of ev­ery con­cise chap­ter, the author in­cludes a sec­tion en­ti­tled “Learn More,” in which she pro­vides ad­di­tional re­sources for ex­plor­ing that par­tic­u­lar kind of com­mu­nity in­volve­ment.

Jha bookends these sto­ries with in­spi­ra­tional in­tro­duc­tions and con­clu­sions. Im­por­tant clos­ing ob­ser­va­tions deftly tie to­gether the case stud­ies, among them that

peo­ple cre­at­ing change in their com­mu­ni­ties over time got re­ally clear about who they were and who they un­der­stood their com­mu­nity to be, and that func­tioned as their lodestar through­out hard times. Trans­form­ing Com­mu­ni­ties is es­sen­tial read­ing for those in search of cre­ative, proven ways to make a pos­i­tive im­pact in their com­mu­ni­ties.

Ros­sig­nol learned that her old friend had been mur­dered and that the de­ceased’s six­teenyear-old daugh­ter, Sarah, stood ac­cused; she de­cided to ex­plore the events in search of the truth.

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