Scene Two: Tour of Maitland Garden Village


Maitland Garden Village was originally an area for soldier housing and is laid out in a rectangular form with a soccer field in the center of the village. Today, this structured rectangular shape still holds and is filled with vibrantly colored houses, many of which were built during World War I. This makes MGV a place of rich heritage and culture, which we explore through our first tour.

Houses in Maitland Garden Village

Cast of Characters
We arrived in Maitland Garden Village and first met with the two women we will be working with closely over the next two months, Sheila and Ronell. Sheila and Ronell are two community members who run the Green Light Project which was formed in 2011 with the help of another WPI team. They have lived in Maitland Garden Village their whole life and will be an important resource for this project. While touring MGV with Sheila, we met several residents of the community and Sheila’s nephew, Lorenzo, who is the chairman of the Green Light Project. Lorenzo is another community member who will be involved with our project in terms of agriculture. He helps maintain a local garden that grows vegetables behind a Methodist Church. We also were briefly introduced to Martin who is the head of the Gardening Club as part of the Green Light Project.

We were dropped off by a taxi at the community soccer field in MGV and waited there to meet Sheila and Ronell. The field had various community members walking around and standing by a decrepit building located at the corner of the field. Multiple dogs roamed the visible streets and field with no apparent owner or collars, though one dog was being walked on a leash.

As we were given a tour around MGV, Shelia pointed out the layout of the village. The streets are arranged in a linear fashion with four parallel streets that run the length of the community and multiple streets that run vertical to those.  The streets were paved and even.  The houses seemed relatively familiar in structure but they stood out due to the vibrant paint and pastel colors. This was different from what we are used to back home but seems to give the houses more character. Most houses had a fence that ranged from corrugated tin, which tended to have old, worn down graffiti, to wooden picket fences. Behind many fences were gardens that took up the whole front yard. Some of these gardens featured colorful flowers, brickwork and sculpture. Many of the houses had cars parked in front of the lawn or on the street.  A few of the houses had driveways.

On our tour we also passed a Methodist church which was encased in a barbed wire fence. The church itself was small though it had a large backyard that had some form of unused community center. There was also a community garden behind the church that grew food products and was lined in a brick. Our tour of the village ended as we headed back towards Ronell’s house for some snacks and a short gathering.

After the taxi dropped us off, we were waiting for a few minutes before Ronell and Sheila came to pick us up. When they did, we went on the short tour so that we could get to know the area. Sheila also introduced us to some residents on the way who were very friendly and spoke with us; this was nice so that people can begin to recognize us and we can interact with them further. This occurs on our way to Ronell’s home, where we had a quick meeting and talk a little bit about the projects occurring in MGV and get to know each other a little bit more.  

Questions to informally asked on the tour:

  • What would you like to see us help you with while we’re here?
  •  What interactions do you see occurring with the residents in MGV?  With who?
  • How are the teams going to work together? And be split up?
  • What sports do people play?
  • How is the layout of the village set up?
  • What is some of the history of MGV?

Action and observation
The day started out by arriving on the soccer field in the center of Maitland Garden Village. The community members stared at our large, out of place group and one guy walked toward us to say hello. After about ten minutes, Ronell and Sheila arrived by car. We made an initial greeting where we exchanged names and had to explain how our group ended up coming to MGV that day after all when the original plan was to visit the following day. Ronell then drove back to her house while Sheila gave us a short tour of MGV. As we began to walk down the street, a couple of men started a conversation with us and connected with the fact that we were from Boston. They even talked a little bit about the Red Sox and we told them a little bit about our project. We continued our tour to the garden behind the Methodist Church where several men were working on laying bricks along the perimeter. One of these men was Lorenzo who will be working with us on the pathway project. Lorenzo is a real joker but means business when it comes to this project. He is particularly a jokester towards Ronell.  We then saw the school pod buildings that are in place of the old school since construction is currently underway on a permanent, brick school. The last stop on this tour was Martin’s house, the leader of the Gardening Club as part of the Green Light Project. We did not get a large chance to speak with Martin, but he towered at his gate and greeted us. Finally, we went to Ronell’s house to talk and our tour ended.

Reflection and Learning
When we first arrived and the community members were staring at us, some of the group felt very vulnerable because of the unfamiliarity and others felt more comfortable. It wasn’t so much a safety concern, but we stuck out in this tight knit community and people didn’t know who we were, so they were confused and staring at us. Once Sheila and Ronell arrived, they welcomed us and all the group felt much more assured about their surroundings in the community. They were very insistent that the community was perfectly safe and I was astounded that the safety was because everyone knew each other and where they lived. It was also very surprising to hear that sometimes they forget to lock their doors and don’t stress out about it. When we met the first community members on our tour with Sheila, it helped us feel more welcomed.  A guy was interested in what we were doing in MGV and made a point with connecting with us over our home, Boston.

The main point of confusion on this initial tour was how we were going to be fitting in with, yet separated from, the MGV community center group. It seems like they have trouble distinguishing our different project objectives, but we hope that this is something we can work out as we talk things through more and the project develops.

Notes for the next scene

  • Become familiar with the area near the river with the aid of a community member.  Perhaps Lorenzo or Martin will be of particular use on this walk.
  • Meet with our sponsors to gain an understanding on how they will interact with the Maitland Garden Village community.
  • Figure out how to work with and split from the MGV team when necessary.  This may involve setting specific goals that are unique to each project and goals that are shared by the projects.