Making Time for the Underserved

Joel Wool ’10 spent his Fridays this summer under a tent at small farmers’ market in Dorchester, one of Boston’s oldest, and most diverse communities. The tent was covered in banners for GreenDorchester, formerly Dorchester Environmental Health Coalition (DEHC), where Joel is currently the Community Advocate.

Joel Wool with Nathan Coope, host of Drumbeat on WRBB 104.9 FM.

“GreenDorchester aims to empower local residents, grass roots groups, businesses, institutions, nonprofits, and anyone working on community based environmental change,” Wool said.

Wool is no stranger to helping others. During high school, he traveled to Nicaragua with a group from Tufts Medical School to volunteer in medical clinics and perform triage – taking down patient’s names, ages, symptoms, and delivering this information to the students and doctors. While at Emerson, he found himself working with organizations like Captured EmotionEarth Emerson, and Alternative Spring Break (ASB). Wool’s volunteerism at Emerson includes assisting with post-Katrina recovery efforts in New Orleans and traveling with ASB in 2010 to assist with flooding relief efforts in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Wool interviewing with Nathan Cooper, host of Drumbeat on WRBB 104.9 FM

Wool interviewing with Nathan Cooper, host of Drumbeat on WRBB 104.9 FM.

“I studied liberal arts with intent to make movies in Hollywood…that didn’t really happen. Moving west and not working on social projects felt very wrong at that moment,” he said. “But now I work in an area that people usually spit on – Dorchester, one of Boston’s oldest, largest neighborhoods, which is often the victim of bad press – and I’m making positive change”.

After graduating from Emerson in 2010, Wool traveled to Haiti with a small group of Emersonians to donate their time to reforestation efforts in the village of Anse-a-Pitre. Upon his return, Wool allied himself with Haitian-led community groups and nonprofits in Boston, and helped with one of the largest Haitian organized memorial events after the earthquake.

“I would love to go back to Haiti. It was such an experience, and they still need so much,” he said.

After 10 months as an AmeriCorps member, Wool was hired as the community advocate for the Dorchester Environmental Health Coalition. There, he works on various initiatives including health concerns, food access, air quality, and transportation issues. On the food access front, Wool explained one of the newest initiatives being created, “a winter farmers’ market, which is pretty unique”.

Wool while on ASB 2010 in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Wool while on ASB 2010 in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Through the Dorchester Community Food Co-op, the team behind the winter market, GreenDorchester recently launched a kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the market’s completion, which will provide wide access to farm fresh produce over the winter months is an area where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is often not an option. “The goal is to create a public space that brings together residents from all backgrounds to celebrate healthy food. Not only will this be Dorchester’s first and only winter farmers’ market, it will also be the first winter farmer’s market in the entire city of Boston,” Wool said.

“You can be doing great work while you forge permanent bonds with society and with your neighbors. There are so many benefits to volunteering,” Wool said, noting that volunteering can be as easy as picking up trash in a park, organizing a community event, or spreading word about a problem in your neighborhood.

Besides working at GreenDorchester, Wool continues to use his film and media training by working on independent documentaries, providing freelance web and marketing services, and engaging in collaborative efforts, connecting individuals and organizations with like-minded groups and talent pools to fill their needs.

Wool at a planting workshop conducted by GreenDorchester at the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center.

Wool at a planting workshop conducted by GreenDorchester at the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center.

“Collaboration is key,” he said as he explained the many difficulties GreenDorchester and other organizations encounter while trying to make change. “It’s very complicated to get public initiatives running and to get things approved.”

So, what’s next? Wool is torn between local and international service opportunities, but is looking at volunteer in Israel. He plans on working in schools and helping with community organization for about 5 months. “And then grad school is always a possibility,” he said, explaining that he’d like to go into global health and possibly cultural studies. Wool is currently enrolled in the Case Studies in Global Health: Biosocial Perspectives course at Harvard University, with one of his personal heroes, Paul Farmer, as lecturer.

“I have a strong interest in art and community,” Wool said, “and combining the two is what I’m ultimately interested in.”

Listen to Wool on WGBH

Listen to Wool on WRBB

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