PROGRAMS & PROJECTS
Claver House Commons Program
Claver House Commons consists of a group of projects that share three principal objectives:
Offer science and literacy-based enrichment activities to grade school children in the Ville. These activities are led by volunteers who share their personal experiences with--and their passion for--reading, writing, science, and technology. Volunteers help the children discover and build their strengths and passions while expanding their awareness of the many important roles science and literacy skills can play in their future. These volunteers can commit at whatever level their lives and interests allow.
Provide a service-learning environment for Claver House volunteers that promotes “service of faith and the promotion of justice” (Jesuit Mission—GC 32). Volunteers work with or become members of our Claver House resident community. Their interaction with the neighborhood begins with their involvement in our programs but can grow beyond. Through this interaction and reflection on their experiences, volunteers discover a sense of reality “that includes the broken world, especially the world of the poor, waiting for healing” and an ability “to recognize God as already at work in our world” (Adolfo Nicolas, S.J.).
Break down poverty’s barriers to learning by responding to neighborhood needs through engagement with the youth, their families, and seniors on an ongoing, personal level. In addition to inviting Ville residents to participate in the educational enrichment activities mentioned above, we address hunger, a biological barrier to learning. We do so by offering breakfast and snacks to Claver House Commons participants as well as distributing food (both donated and grown in our gardens) to neighbors. We also make families aware of nearby resources that can address needs beyond the scope of our programs.
Claver House Commons Projects
On Saturday mornings Claver House hosts “Project Read and Feed” and “Science Saturday”, two overlapping projects that emphasize STEM and literacy. Also on weekdays in July we host an all-day Claver House Summer Camp, modeled closely after the Saturday morning programs.
These projects expose children to a plethora of enrichment activities. Youth gather at Claver House for breakfast and then a variety of hands-on, science-oriented activities that explore the world of physics, aviation, chemistry, robotics, the environment, mathematics, electronics, biology, and more. The projects also provide activities that promote literacy and communications skills. All activities reinforce and complement what the students learn in the classroom at local schools. They make their classroom learning applicable to potential real-life careers, expose the youth to new horizons, and help them find their passion for learning. Not only are these projects forward looking, but also they provide a safe space within the neighborhood for children to learn and engage with volunteers from the Ville community, the greater St. Louis area, and across the country. Through their involvement children practice life skills such as patience, communication, determination, and teamwork. Their participation requires an eagerness to learn, engage, and have fun. The programming of Claver House Commons provides children with an early exposure to technical skills that can lead to careers in technology-based fields.
Project Read and Feed is much broader in content than its contribution to our Saturday and summer camp educational enrichment programs. Year around it distributes books, donated meals, non-perishable foods, fresh foods from our community gardens (in season), personal hygiene items, and home supplies to Ville residents in need. Recipients include seniors and families - often working families who too often need to choose between paying utility bills and placing healthy food on the table. Click here to view news articles on this important project.
Claver House serves as an indoor learning center for Claver House Commons project, and it is also home for a resident volunteer community. It creates a sense of community and an environment for learning, reflecting, and doing. Resident commitments and internships range from 2 months to 2 years. Claver House also hosts high school and university students from across the country participating in weekend, spring break, and summer service internship programs. Residents and guests develop relationships with each other and with their Ville neighbors.
GardenVille and Claver House Gardens are community garden and outdoor learning centers that teach health, nutrition, food justice, gardening, and sustainability. They provide sources for healthy foods in a near food desert area; and their perennial flowers, fruit trees, and green spaces beautify the neighborhood. They are also intentional spaces that build relationships among neighborhood residents and volunteers from across the area. Annually volunteers and residents participate in garden maintenance, garden-based educational programs, and garden-related special events. All Ville residents have access to food harvested from our gardens.
Claver Works Program
The Claver Works Landscaping project annually provides earned-income opportunities for youth and young adults in the Ville. Six months each year participants work afternoons and weekends doing landscaping and gardening.
The Ville Collaborative Program
R2K co-founded the Ville Collaborative in 2012 as a community building partnership, and we remain a strong and active member. The collaborative includes nonprofit organizations, churches, and schools within the VIlle. Our monthly meetings provide an opportunity for information sharing on how to better work together to understand and meet the needs of the neighborhood. The Ville Collaborative also attracts interest from organizations outside the Ville who wish to commit resources to the neighborhood. Together we host a number of events, including an annual Back to School Block Party and a Christmas in the Ville gathering.