We launched our own program—The HOPE Program this year. It evolved, as we all do, after years of listening and growing. We love our history and our foundation, but it was time for us to move forward as a Cleveland-based, trauma-informed and youth-focused organization. We call our groups, Communities. We believe that breaking cycles in our city requires building communities with hope that life can be different when lived together.
We took a two pronged approach—first we asked youth to help us develop a youth training. So staff and youth got together and created a four hour training designed to help youth reflect on what they were looking for from a team of supporters. How did they want to spend their time with their groups? What new experiences are they interested in? What goals or dreams do they have for their lives? How can trauma keep you from trusting? What are the rules of the road for being in relationship with them? These were the important questions that together—we began to discuss with youth interested in having their own team.
Additionally, we wanted our volunteer training to be focused on understanding some important concepts—understanding trauma, poverty and cultural humility were core to the new six hour adult training. We wanted self-reflection to be a part of volunteer training as well. We ask volunteers to “take off the mask” and think about their own preconceived notions around “helping”. We spend a lot of time sharing stories and building trust with both volunteers and youth.
We have expert staff—trained trauma professionals—who prioritize people over programs. Everyone matters. Everyone counts. The secret sauce to doing hard work is staff willing to be the bridge between youth and volunteers. Staff meet quarterly with each group to help them reflect and reset if needed. We believe that we all have things to learn so we want to listen and refine our work as we learn from our awesome volunteers and youth. We talk to youth being served a lot and we stay in touch with youth long after one year.
By the end of 2019, we will have launched a total of 60 Communities. Our Communities don’t end at a year, in fact since 2017, the average length of time that groups continue meeting is 21 months. We have groups that are 5 1/2 years old. It is up to the young people how much contact they have with mentors, how long the relationships are, or if they want the relationships to continue—but they know they have people that care about them after this first year in Community. People who believe in them and are with them.
Recently a young lady told me this:
My mentors have really stepped up when I needed support the most. Transitioning out of college was more difficult than I thought and without being asked my table was there for me—no questions asked. In the short time I’ve known them, they have become the family I never got to experience. It’s a scary feeling opening up and trusting people. Especially when so many people have abused your trust. With the right people, trusting again can be liberating.
We are looking for more Hope Builders. If you want to learn more contact us, we would be happy to discuss our work with you or your organization.
Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org