WhatsApp? In Knoxville it’s documenting a neighborhood’s progress

October 4, 2019
WhatsApp? In Knoxville it’s documenting a neighborhood’s progress

It started as a way for a small team of Baha’is and friends in Knoxville, Tennessee, to keep one another informed on community-building activities in a neighborhood.

Over time, the team’s WhatsApp thread has become so much more: a means of seeking and volunteering resources for the neighborhood effort, a living document of how activities in the neighborhood have grown, and an encouragement for other community-building efforts in the area.

“Our use of WhatsApp started when Azin Delavari, who came back to the USA from Australia, was talking about how in their community they used WhatsApp to keep a record of home visits and communication flow going,” explains Khoji Bahrami, a Baha’i member of the team.

That way, “Everyone knew which houses had been visited and the outcome,” she says. “So we decided to use it for our neighborhood efforts and to keep the community at large posted.” 

From the initial nucleus, says Bita Rahmanian, another key team member, the thread has attracted youths and other adults involved in the neighborhood, Baha’is in and around Knoxville, institutions and agencies of the Faith, and people outside the area — rooting from the sidelines, as it were.

“It has uplifted us to the point there’s a sense that everybody wants to do something, whether they’re involved in the neighborhood or not,” reflects Rahmanian. “They want to be part of it and they’re all encouraged by what’s going on in the neighborhood.”

It’s easy to see why. Posts to the thread encompass all the core activities of community building, the consultations of those coordinating those activities, and visits with the families of children’s class and junior youth group participants.

Eric and Genevieve Dozier (left) sing during a devotional gathering in Knoxville, Tennessee, that is being documented with the help of WhatsApp. Photo by Bita Rahmanian

Naturally, photos are a large part of what the app is documenting in Knoxville — snaps of people of all ages and backgrounds making their diverse neighborhood a better place: 

  • Studying holy writings in living rooms and around kitchen tables.
  • Holding deep conversations on front porches and along the street. 
  • Enjoying the music of Eric Dozier, visiting from Nashville. 
  • Most recently, sending a team member off to college. 
  • And stepping up, as three youths have, to coordinate activities in her wake.

In sum, a record of relationships built and an ever-increasing number of people engaged in service. Documented for reflection and posterity.


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