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Build-It-Up WV! helps sustain communities
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A grassroots program that builds sustainability in coal field communities. And it's about solidarity, NOT charity!

There’s something building in the mountains of West Virginia. Instead of taking vacations or working menial summer jobs, many young people helped grow healthy economies in the coalfields. For six weeks this summer, West Virginia youth worked side-by-side with coalfield community groups on grassroots sustainability projects through a program called Build-it-Up West Virginia!

These participants helped strengthen local economies in Fayette, Boone, Raleigh, and Kanawha Counties. The work supported local organizations in building community gardens and greenhouses, weatherizing homes, running a community bicycle shop, and building a community kitchen.

Organizers decided to run these programs to start and grow community-run sustainability efforts in areas where green jobs are few and far between. Their vision of West Virginia, where communities run their own economies and produce their own goods, is being achieved through the handson work being done this summer.

Joe Gorman, group coordinator and Morgantown resident, describes the Build-It-Up, West Virginia! mission of long-term progress.

“It’s about solidarity, not charity. We’re helping build the capacity of these groups so that when the program ends, the groups will have even more power to create real change in their communities. We’re also learning leadership skills so that we can pioneer similar projects in our own communities all over the state.”

“We gave the participants living allowances to cover the cost of their time and prioritized low-income applicants in our selection process in order to make the program accessible to a diverse group of people,” said Danny Chiotos, program coordinator. “Everyone involved in the program is a West Virginia native or a resident who’s here for the long haul, so we’re not only accountable to the groups we work with, we’re building connections for year-round organizing.”

Build-It-Up West Virginia is a project of the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) and is sponsored by Americorps VISTA, Step-by-Step West Virginia, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and Coal River Mountain Watch with the assistance of the Sierra Club’s Central Appalachia Environmental Justice Program. The 2010 program ran from June 6 through August 1.

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