There is no shortage of wisdom coming from Difference Maker Andrew Buendia. When asked to talk about a difference he made in his community, Andrew first answered by saying this:
“I have no one community, we are all part of one interconnected community. With that being said, I have ‘made a difference’ in numerous portions of said community. I place quotations around making a difference since I believe that this seems braggadocious as if I feel the need to be praised for doing something to ensure the next generation has a better chance at life than I did.”
After learning more about Andrew, there is no better quote to accurately describe this difference maker and the work he has accomplished during his years at UM-Dearborn.
Alley Activation Project
In the video above, Andrew showcases one of the biggest projects he worked on as a participant in the Alley Activation Project. This wonderful, community-based project works to rethink the function of an alley; finding ways to reconfigure it to address the needs of the local community.
Walking through the newly beautified alley located on Derby St., Andrew recalls noticing the scarcity of community gardens in Metro Detroit as a child. As he grew older, the ways that urban living had separated members of the community from one another and the natural beauties of the Earth started to become clear.
“This is what propelled me to, under the guidance of Professor Draus, find ways to turn alleyways into greenways, then into dreamways,” he says.
Last summer, Andrew volunteered his spare time to implement green infrastructure in various neighborhoods. This involved cleaning out alleyways by picking up littering items and cutting down trees that would soon uplift the concrete within the alleys. By the end of the summer, the volunteer group created a solar-powered rain barrel that they adorned with paintings of oak trees, bumblebees, and flowers – a representation of the neighborhood it would be placed in.
“It showed people that green infrastructure does not have to be bland, ugly, or boring but rather it could be fun, it could tell a story, and it could be representative of the surrounding neighborhood,” he says.
As a part of an interconnected community, Andrew hopes to continue this type of work throughout his career. One way he plans on doing so is by attending law school.
“I learned then it was a fantasy to think an individual or even a movement could change the system in its entirety, yet what we can do is create and uplift these grassroots movements to change what we can in our community,” he says.
With this ideology in mind, he is choosing to study either corporate or immigration law so that he can accumulate enough financial resources to directly fund all the nonprofits he has worked with, and hopefully, one day, create a nonprofit of his own.
On A Final Note
When asked to talk about his accomplishments, Andrew responded by providing a list of people and organizations doing incredible work in the Metro Detroit area. Ones that he believes are the true difference makers within their respective communities, worthy of both praise and flowers. So, in keeping with the actions of this Difference Maker, here are those groups:
- Rescue Mi Nature - a nonprofit working to revitalize native wildlife in Michigan so that the younger generation has something to grow old with.
- AGI Construction - a construction company in Southwest Detroit that is finding ways to refurbish homes within the area so that the longstanding community members do not bear the brunt of gentrification. They also teach trade skills to the youth.
- Canfield Consortium - a nonprofit committed to restoring the neighborhood community experience in East Canfield Village and empowering legacy Detroit residents.
- Alkebu-lan Village - a martial arts school that provides educational, cultural, and recreational programs to over 1,000 Detroit youth and their families each year through on-site and outreach programs.
“I believe my difference was being able to show people how they can reconnect with the Earth, reminding them just how valuable it is, and how valuable human connection is.” - Andrew Buendia