In June of 2017, after graduation from Lord Botetourt High School, Rachel Bray moved to Granada, Nicaragua to begin working in an impoverished neighborhood. In less than a year, that neighborhood has completely changed. Almost every child is in school, multiple people are in college, and the job rate has increased. Five new houses have been completely rebuilt, multiple houses are undergoing repairs, and a few families moved out of the neighborhood and are leasing a new home. Most of the trash has been picked up and each house has trash cans. The sicknesses are few, and the excitement for life is high. How did it happen? We had weekly activities with monthly projects where every single person living in that neighborhood was invited and encouraged to attend. We served a nutritious meal with each activity where they met their needed daily food, vitamin, and water intake. But, in order to attend, they had to be in school or working. We guided them through the entire process for an overall better life, but they had to want it and put forth effort. A little tough love and encouragement goes a long way, and that entire neighborhood has been changed because of it.
Rachel returned to Roanoke in April of 2018 and is continuing the mission of Comunidad de Raices here. Since August, we have begun to transform a neighborhood in inner city NW Roanoke City. In February 2019, we purchased a house in the neighborhood, called The Treehouse, which will be Rachel's home and the location of our activities. We offer daily after school tutoring with regular, committed volunteers, twice weekly family dinners, monthly exercise classes, birthday parties, law enforcement visits, trash clean up days, and financial literacy courses. Claude Steele's text Whistling Vivaldi discusses stereotype threat and how the perceptions of outsiders affects the development of a community due to fear. In order for our community to develop and to prevent future crimes, our organization sets out to reframe the views on our community, to reduce crime, to increase academic achievement, and to ensure our community receives the same opportunities for success. By displaying positive community values and providing a safe, family atmosphere, our community will begin to thrive and reduce the negative perceptions from the outside and surrounding areas. Our community will be a place where people deserve and desire to live.