Onie Johns

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Onie Johns. director of the Caritas Village in Binghampton

 Who I am…

My name is Onie Johns and I’m the director of the Caritas Village.

The Caritas Village is…

Caritas itself is an intentional Christian community. We were able to open in December ’06 as a community center, coffee shop and cultural arts center.

The Village is definitely is a healing kind of place. People say that all the time when they walk in here that the atmosphere just changes things for ‘em. And that they’re really surprised to find this in a neighborhood like this.

What led me here…

I moved in this neighborhood in the year 2000. I was in a 10-month spiritual formation group with the Memphis School of Servant Leadership and felt called to live in Christian community in an inner-city neighborhood.

The Binghampton Neighborhood is…

Binghampton gets a very bad rap, particularly the west side. Well, both sides do.

This side of Binghampton is extremely diverse. It is African, African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, Afghanis, and Caucasians all living in a four-by-four block area, very peacefully most of the time.

We don’t have nearly as many problems as we get labeled with. I always tell people, nothing happens here that didn’t happen in Germantown. In the suburbs, it happens behind closed doors or on the patio. Here it happens right in the middle of the street in front of you so you know what’s going on.

When I moved in the neighborhood and told my friend that I was moving in, she said, “I will not be able to visit you in that neighborhood. I can’t bring my car in that neighborhood.” And I said, “Maybe you should get a different car.”

How faith plays a role in my work…

Plays a very large part. You know, I believe that everybody is created equal. I believe that there’s enough for everybody if people didn’t hoard stuff. And I believe that’s how God made it and that’s what we’re supposed to do, so everybody eats here whether they have money or not.

I define healthcare as…

Well, healthcare is a whole lot more holistic than treating a cold, you know. It’s treating the soul as well. It is relationships. It’s having a support system and having faith.

One of Memphis’ greatest healthcare challenges is…

We’re in the South, so because of diet and certainly poverty, there’s a lot of diabetes, a lot of heart trouble and those are big issues, but I would think that poverty is the worst thing that Memphis struggles with that affects healthcare.

But what Memphis healthcare is doing right is…

I think they’re doing a lot of good things. I mean, there’re the two big clinics here, Church Health and Christ Community. Well, now there’s a third, isn’t there—Resurrection. And they’re on a sliding scale. We have a long, long way to go, but I think more free clinics like this should open in different parts of town and that would alleviate some of the crowding.

The biggest challenge in my healthcare work is…

The greatest challenge that we face here at the Village in healthcare is people not having money to get their medicines. It all comes down to economics. I mean, the whole world does, but certainly medicine does.

The greatest reward in my healthcare work is…

Well, it’s very definitely the relationships are its greatest reward. Hearing people’s story and, you know, I often think that when you hear somebody’s story it’s hard to judge them or dislike them. That’s such a gift when people trust you with their stories.

Learn more about the Caritas Village

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