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Doula Care Project Chosen by City Residents to Receive $150K for Lead Poisoning Prevention Efforts

More than 480 votes were cast by Syracuse residents on Tuesday; $150,000 participatory budgeting grant awarded to winning project.

The Central New York Community Foundation has named a partnership between Sankofa Reproductive Health and Healing Center and Village Birth International the winner of a $150,000 participatory budgeting grant to help increase childhood lead testing and awareness. The Sankofa Community-Based Doula Care and Lead Awareness Expansion Project was one of four up for public vote on Tuesday, May 2. Voting took place online and in-person at the Salt City Market Community Room, where the winner was announced live at a celebration party held that evening. More than 480 votes were cast.

The winning project involves a collaboration between Sankofa and Village Birth as well as Doula 4 a Queen, zenG Wellness and Cafe Sankofa to use community-based doula care as an avenue of engagement and peer to peer community-led wellness. Doula-led education will be expanded to incorporate lead awareness and prevention into pre- and post-partum programming. View the full proposal summary here.

Tuesday’s election was the culmination of nine months of work completed by Syracuse residents, community leaders and nonprofit organizations to design solutions that would be most effective in their neighborhoods. The Community Foundation’s participatory budgeting project invited residents most affected by the striking childhood lead poisoning rates in Syracuse – 10.49% as of 2021 – to decide how to spend funding in support of LeadSafeCNY to address the need.

A series of evening sessions held from September through April supported attendees with dinner and childcare. Participants learned about childhood lead poisoning, generated ideas for solutions and collaboratively developed proposals for the community-wide vote. A total of 165 individuals participated in the design sessions.

“This was a unique opportunity for residents to bring their experiences to the table and decide what they wanted to see happen to change their communities; the energy was electric,” said Qiana Williams, program officer of community engagement. “This process amplified the voices of those most affected by childhood lead poisoning and pointed to possible solutions.”

The ballot also included projects submitted by United Way of CNY, Baby B.A.C.K., Inc., and a collaboration between Syracuse Peacemaking Project, Peace Inc. and Families for Lead Freedom Now. They are eligible to apply for funding through the Community Foundation’s LeadSafeCNY initiative. The Community Foundation established LeadSafeCNY in 2018, committing to fund a variety of approaches to address the region’s high childhood lead poisoning rates. The total amount invested in the community to date is $1.97 million.

To learn more about the Community Foundation’s participatory budgeting project, visit http://www.cnycf.org/budgeting.

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