The East Harlem Youth Build project has been there 30 years. It has an incredible history of bringing change to that neighborhood – making homes and communities places that are livable and places which people can take pride in. The project has worked with hundreds of young people to bring them qualifications whilst renovating 28 buildings in the area and made, social, emotional and physical change to their neighbourhood.
In particular, I was struck by one story of a man called Michael. Michael was a local brought up in East Harlem, he failed at school and entered the youth build program and was part of the team that renovated offices we actually met in. He loved the program, he also pointed out his high school certificate on the wall, along with everyone else who completes their qualification. Michael dressed in his suit, works as a course counselor, so he works as part of team supporting a cohort of 40 young people in the Youth Build program. He pointed out this locker (pictured above), it is Michaels’ son’s locker. His son, autistic, attends the after school program, where he has found community and the support he needs.
I was then reflecting on the power of longevity in a given area, especially that of an organisation or a space. People I think can come and go but if a set of values is embodied and lived out in a place it can have a profound effect on the area and the individuals in that area., it goes on to impact families and generations. This speaks to people, it creates family, understanding and trust.