Saturday, November 28, 2009

An Ode to the Sarahs


...so I ate a python the other week...
- From Sarah's blog



Looking out onto the sunset of an African savannah is a long way from tackling crime in Cincinnati neighborhoods. But behind this photo there is an amazing person that I want to tell you about.

I've often wondered if there was a typical kind of person drawn to the difficult work of community development and crime prevention?

People like this have always impressed me. Unlike professionals who do crime prevention and community development work for a living - police officers, social workers, consultants like me - many of these folks are volunteers. If they are paid at all, they are underpaid and overworked.

Much of what they do goes unnoticed by media. Journalists pick up the "sexy" stories - cops who raid a drug house or child welfare officers rescuing abused youth. Community workers create activities for families, programs for youth, and paint out graffiti and clean-up blighted areas. They are ignored. Yet it is their work that often prevents the nasty things from happening in the first place.

I affectionately call them SafeGrowthers, but they rarely call themselves anything. They are all ages, genders, colors and political stripes. Over the decades that I've had the privilege of working with them I've noticed they often don't see themselves for what they are - extraordinary and exceptional.

One of the best, of whom I'm particularly proud, is Sarah Buffie

Sarah was a student in a Cincinnati CPTED/SafeGrowth course I ran with a colleague five years ago. She worked at a community police partnering center. Sarah had this penetrating mind and can-do attitude. After the course we spoke about community work in other places, maybe even abroad. Sarah took her own advice, joined the Peace Corps, and went to help communities in Namibia, Africa.

For two years Sarah has been sending stories of her amazing journey, and the remarkable work she has been doing in a culture far, far away.

Next January Sarah returns to the U.S. I have a sneaking suspicion leaving Africa will be more difficult than leaving here two years ago. I suspect also the people there will miss her dearly. No doubt they are better from her work and, I'm sure, vise versa.

Sarah is the very best example of what community development workers look like.

I pinched the photo above from her blog. For me it is perfect - it represents the ties that bind us all together.

Thanks Sarah for reminding me of that. And welcome home.

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