There's a communal house in West Philly incubating nonprofit workers - Generocity Philly

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Jan. 25, 2016 9:15 am

There’s a communal house in West Philly incubating nonprofit workers

You may have heard of the Haverford House, a communal home in West Philly where six fellows from Haverford College are living, working and hosting "guac-offs."

Homemade tree ornaments.

(Courtesy photo)

Inside a house in West Philly, six recent Haverford College graduates working as fellows at local Philly nonprofits are living communally. It’s kind of like if you add actual value, real impact and civilization to the Real World.”

Each year, six graduating seniors from Haverford are sent as emissaries of sorts into the city to work as fellows at a range of host nonprofit organizations that include Philadelphia Futures, Community Legal Services and Committee of Seventy for four days out of the week.

The other day of the week is committed to working on a project that better connects Haverford to the city, funded by Haverford’s Center for Peace in Global Citizenship. Those projects range from building a professional network for students and alumni of color in the city to expanding engagement programs for incarcerated women.

Since the program launched in 2002, the house itself — called, aptly, “Haverford House” — seems to have become something of local West Philly lore.

“We’re very active about the communal living that we’re doing,” said fellow Romi Laskin. “If you came in a week ago, the first thing you’d notice is this awesome Christmas tree with DIY ornaments. After that you’d notice our house is extremely clean.”

Projects range from building a professional network for students and alumni of color in the city to creating engagement programs for incarcerated women.

That’s because the group has a serious sanitation plan in place, with each fellow assigned a certain set of chores — trash collecting, grocery shopping, the works. Some of those expenses are paid for by the college, including something they call “fun money,” used to “do something fun as a house.”

They’ve gone apple-picking and gone out for meals together — all pretty tame stuff. What did they do this past weekend?

Held a “guac-off,” Laskin said. Yes, a guac-off — as in a guacamole competition.

The group has become a unit over the past half-year.

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“The first week was really helpful because it gave us a chance to talk about what our ideal living space would be like and how we can support each other and work together to make our house match that vision,” said fellow Kayla Franceschi. “Haverford will send in facilitators to help us have those conversations, people who have lived communally in the past and can share that experience. We’re really just set up for success.”

It’s not all fun and games. Conversely, the most important work they’re doing is out in the city, which they blog about. Laskin said most fellows in the past have continued their work in the nonprofit space, landing gigs at local organizations or sometimes afar — one fellow is working at a shelter for recent immigrants on the Texas-Mexico border.

“It’s a pretty holistic program,” Laskin said.

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