East Boston’s Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) Executive Director Phil Giffee recently announced that NOAH has hired Dorchester resident Latifa Ziyad as its new Resiliency Planning Coordinator.
After working with government institutions for more than a decade as a liaison to state and local elected and appointed officials, Ziyad previously worked at the New England Aquarium in the Education Department, Ocean Center as a Coordinator for Community Resilience before coming to NOAH. At the Aquarium Ziyad connect community planners with nonprofits and educators, develop relationships with targeted area groups while building science learning and hosted numerous workshops around resilience
“Latifa has a variety of skills which make her an ideal candidate for NOAH’s Resiliency Planning Coordinator, but mostly she has a positive, ‘let’s work together attitude’ which impresses,” said Giffee. “I am sure her academic background in climate work at the Aquarium, her many experiences in Boston government, her neighborhood organizing and her connections in East Boston will help NOAH build out our climate work and alliances in East Boston.”
Right now, Ziyad is attending to food insecurity in Eastie with a number of NOAH’s partners because there are still too many families still without work and life’s necessities due to the pandemic.
As one of her first events Ziyad organized a Mother’s Day ensemble of food, lotions, cookies, flowers and a hand cart to carry all the heavy items.
“Right now we (NOAH) are more into food insecurity than I initially envisioned,” said Ziyad. “That’s the reality check because when people wake up in the morning they need to eat but with the lack of jobs and all these other systems being strained addressing food insecurity just becomes paramount. We were fortunate to get funding from the Boston Resiliency fund and that helped us kind of go deep into food insecurity immediately.”
Ziyad identified a major issue with food distribution in Eastie right away.
“What II noticed is that some of our seniors and some of our single women were showing up at distribution sites and had to carry these heavy boxes of food home,” she said. “So one of the first things we did was reorganize some of our resources to get food carts that help people carry their food home. So no matter where they got access to food they now have help with these carts.”
Ziyad said NOAH partnered with agencies like the East Boston Social Centers, the Health Center and the Community Soup Kitchen to distribute these carts.
“These agencies can now help their constituents get the food home with ease no matter where they get the food—so that was a win,” said Ziyad. “I think for us on the ground, looking at what needs to be addressed that perhaps wasn’t addressed and looking at the landscape of what’s happening we can make adjustments to support these programs and make them more efficient.”
Through the latest work addressing food insecurities, Ziyad said resiliency is not only about the climate but the health and well being of an entire community.
“We are working on resiliency on the full spectrum,” she said. “I think people look at it as climate change but it also has to do with how communities respond to change within. When you have challenging events like climate change or, more recently COVID, it has an impact on people. So, resilience spans the full spectrum.”
Giffee added that as Ziyad settles in at NOAH she will focus on helping Eastie create an East Boston Resilience Network so NOAH can strengthen local civic and non-profit relationships along with City agencies in collaboration with residents.
The aim of this network will be to respond to climate change/sea level rise as well as other emergencies which require close collaborations in our vulnerable community.
“As part of NOAH’s climate summit and subsequent report we found that we need a plan to connect all the different organizations that are dealing with all of these issues under one one body,” said Ziyad. “So, the resilience network is the primary goal of my work so we can have a system of folks that are doing this work on the ground and are able to talk in real time. This network will be able to respond to strains within society whether it’s climate change, or lack of food security, or joblessness, or any of the different issues that organizations are now dealing with no matter what their original mission was.”