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Peacemaking Project aims to develop new community leaders through lead testing proposal

Two women stand next to a paper board with lists written on it.
Katie Zilcosky
Two discussion leaders at the lead testing participatory budgeting meeting share proposal feedback on an easel. Mar. 9, 2023.

If community members vote for theSyracuse Peacemaking Project’s proposal, coordinator Leah Russell said the first thing they'd put the money toward is developing a screening tool to use in the community.

"We're gonna hit the streets with iPads, the screening tool will ask a series of really simple questions that anybody can answer," Russell said. "And those the results of those of that screening will direct people to the next step."

That next step would be helping them get to a doctor or to an event where they can get tested. Russell said the events will range in size, from small movie nights to large backpack giveaways.

The Syracuse Peacemaking Project’s proposal to curb childhood lead poisoning would also aim to develop a new generation of community leaders. Their proposal is one of three the public will be able to vote on through the Central New York Community Foundation’s participatory budgeting process.

They plan to incentivize community members to engage in lead testing and advocacy. For example, Russell said a person would get a chip for filling out the lead poisoning screening. That chip could then be turned for a $25 gift card or other prize.

"Then you get a blue chip. That chip says bring a friend or family member [to get screened]. You bring a friend or family member. You get another $25 or some other kind of incentive that your your family is excited about," Russell said.

She continued, "You turn that blue chip in. You get another red chip. That red chip tells you to join our outreach teams, to reach out to your friends and family. And so, it's on a really short timeline, rapidly developing those leadership skills so that we have folks out in the community who are doing this work and multiplying our efforts."

The Syracuse Peacemaking Project’s efforts would focused on four zip codes in the city with the highest rates of disparity in lead poisoning testing. Russel said they wouldn’t be able to citywide outreach with the funds available.

"We can't, with $150,000, we can't be everywhere all the time doing all of the things. So we really wanted to target our areas where we are needed the most," Russell said.

Those who have attended a participatory budget meetingover the past nine months will be able to cast votes for this proposal and others starting April 18. Voting opens to the entire community on May 2.

Peace Inc. and United Way also presented proposals to the public.

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.