In Baltimore, the last week of April 2015 was filled with unrest and protests following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Grey. Through the support and prayers of volunteers and friends, the HOPE worldwide Baltimore Chapter continued to thrive and meet many of the needs that were revealed during this time.
Following the riots and protests that rocked the city, the Baltimore Chapter worked to engage community leaders, police, churches and senior centers to determine how we could best help. These discussions planted the seed for the Summer Saturday Academy (SSA). The SSA, created in conjunction with an organization called “The Door”, was rooted in the idea that peace in our communities would first need to begin with building peace in our homes. This program was meant to engage an entire household - the youngest participant was two years old and the oldest was 75!
During the six-week session the Chapter taught 35 students in eight different classes and had over 90 volunteers come out to serve. The Summer Saturday Academy workshops included Fun & Games, Arts & Crafts, Mind Games, Job Readiness, Spanish, Story Time Theatre, and everyone’s personal favorite, Cooking (the completed projects were enjoyed by all)! The 2015 Summer Saturday Academy was a success in building connections between volunteers and community members and combined with other initiatives that followed, allowed the Chapter to reach even more families in the community.
The aftermath of the unrest in Baltimore also revealed the needs of senior citizens in our communities who are all too familiar with riots of the past and who felt anxiety and concern and overlooked. The connections formed with the senior centers in Baltimore allowed the Chapter to begin programs that give seniors a safe environment to connect, express themselves and be active participants in the conversations. Chapter volunteers also supported other worthwhile programs like The Kid Safe Zone that grew up out of the uprising. The Kid Safe Zone, which is located just a few blocks from where Freddie Gray was arrested, was started by an organization that saw the need for a safe place for kids to socialize, play, and do homework without fear of violence. HOPE worldwide volunteers now work with these kids each month and the Chapter’s campus students have been especially engaged with this program.
As we look back on this year, God has allowed amazing work to come out of something incredibly tragic. As we look towards 2016, we are filled with many dreams for Baltimore - but with that comes the realization that there is still much to be done. We plan on creating more programs to engage Baltimore's youth starting with the Story Tree Gang. The Baltimore Story Tree Gang features a cast of teens and campus students who combine music, dance, puppetry and comic storytelling to address challenging issues facing today's youth. Our hope is to transition the Story Tree Gang from a theater troupe to a mentorship program for middle schoolers. The program will provide middle schoolers with the personal experience and attention of our campus and singles while teaching them life skills that will help their transition to young adults.
Our job is not done and we can do so much more with your help. Your support will go a long way to encourage and empower young people to express themselves in healthy creative ways.
To make a donation to a HOPE worldwide Chapter, including our work in Baltimore, please click here.