Caitlin Childs Says Goodbye to Real Communities
I joined the GCDD staff in 2009 as the first director of the Real Communities initiative. I came with over 10 years of community organizing experience, an unwavering commitment to social justice and a strong willingness to get my hands dirty, learn, grow and co-create with other Georgians. I never imagined my organizing work would lead me to a state agency and I had no idea what to expect.
Over the past six and a half years, I have lived and breathed Real Communities. I have had the privilege and honor of working alongside some of the most creative, open-hearted, committed and brilliant organizers I have ever known. I have seen relationships develop and have witnessed lives, families and communities change.
Together, we have not only found ways to bring people with and without disabilities together in Georgia communities, but we have built deep relationships with one another that blur the lines of where our work ends and our commitment to one another as friends, chosen family and allies starts.
We have supported 12 communities around the State and expect to welcome two more this summer. We have seen youth working in their neighborhoods as Roving Listeners in Macon and have grown food together in community gardens in Clarkston and in Little Green Wagons in Savannah. We have traveled in minivans around North America eager to learn from the work and experiences of others. We have celebrated, laughed, cried and grieved together. We have welcomed new babies, celebrated marriages and said goodbye to beloved staff and partners.
We have put Mike Green’s organizing motto of “Ready, Fire, Aim” into practice as we have taken risks and tried unorthodox approaches while always creating space to learn and reflect along the way. We have shared stories of our successes and failures while celebrating our failures in particular as robust learning opportunities. I have coached and cheered on Community Builders as they have grown and evolved in their work. I have seen their skills, relationships and strategies deepen and flourish, some of whom have gone on to coach and support the development of Community Builders in their local communities. To say this is an honor is an understatement.
Transitioning out of this role is incredibly bittersweet. I very much believe in the solid foundation we created together during the first volume of the Real Communities story. I am eager to bear witness to the ways new and fresh leadership will move this work to the next level and will be listening for the new stories and lessons that will be learned along the way.
My role is changing but my commitment to this work, to Georgia’s communities and to all of the people who have come into my life and heart along the way will remain. I know our paths will continue to cross as we continue to work to build communities in Georgia where all people are seen, valued, included and celebrated. We are in this together for the long haul.
Caitlin Childs is the former GCDD Real Communities organizing director.