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The Orion

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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Rebuilding Paradise workshop provides hope through community building

Despite a low turnout, the workshop hosted by Rebuilding Paradise provided a more human blueprint for the future.

On Saturday morning, previous residents of Paradise and concerned citizens came to the Idea Labs in Chico to workshop different ways to cultivate the community. The workshop focused on rebuilding the spirit of Paradise through story-telling and gifts.

The workshop was run by Julian Cohen, the Cultural Innoventor Facilitator of the Living Guild. The Living Guild is an organization that runs workshops for disaster areas. The people that work for it call themselves “Regenerative Responders” because they come in when other help leaves and they focus on community healing.

Cohen was disheartened at first to see the lack of people at the event, but looked at it in a positive manner.

“With a smaller group the intimacy will be ten-fold,” Cohen said.

Cohen led the group through different exercises to better connect people and further this sense of connected community. The exercises included breaking off into groups to discuss their growth in the past months after the Camp Fire and then listing gifts they could bring to help rebuild Paradise.

The workshop began with participants sharing about themselves. Audience members had a piece of paper, sticky notes and markers under their chair and were instructed to list what defined them as a person and then to illustrate it on the paper. Members then walked around the room meeting with different people and asking about their illustrations.

The Rebuilding Paradise group held a workshop on Saturday morning that focused on the spirit of Paradise. Photo credit: Nate Rettinger

The next activity focused on personal narratives from the day of the fire and the months following.

John Kunst was a resident of Paradise. He shared his story as a part of how he has grown in the past couple of months.

Kunst initially thought it was just going to be another fire drill. It wasn’t until he received a call from one of his employees that Kunst and his wife decided to pack a few valuables and go. They had been in the house for 35 years.

While leaving town, his wife went to go pick a 96-year-old friend of theirs and got stuck. They had to abandon the car and get into a different car. After this, they had to help a burning ambulance from which they all ran three miles through the burning forest to safety.

Kunst and his family lived with different friends after the fire until they found an apartment in Chico which is where they currently reside.

“There are a tremendous amount of resources available in our own community to rebuild and reimagine what a community can be,” Kunst said.

Kunst shared that he came to the event to try and figure out the best way to help.

“I came to get ideas on how to participate and how to come together to learn from others experience,” Kunst said. “I know there’s a lot of wisdom that came today from previous fires that have happened within California.”

There was some confusion from the leaders of the Rebuilding Paradise group. Their past meetings had ranged from 70-80 people which focused on issues such as ecological restoration and grief counseling. This gathering had only about 25 people at the most. It was suggested that the location affected the total outcome, as both the previous events were held in Paradise.

Pancake Bar.jpg
The Rebuilding Paradise group had a pancake bar at the Idea Fab Lab Saturday morning for community members. Photo credit: Nate Rettinger

The event concluded with Cohen advocating for Paradise members to continue meeting and focusing on the community and spirit of Paradise.

Nate can be reached at [email protected] or @NRettinger19 on Twitter.

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