Blog: 9 August 2018

Thursday, August 9

If you watched, “Waiting for the World to Change” on ABC News a decade ago, you may remember Josh, Ivan, and Karim, three of the children highlighted. Viewers got a glimpse of childhood in Camden with conditions that led eight-year old Josh to ask whether their peers in the suburbs also hear gunshots and see people dying for no reason, and five-year old Karim worry about what the future holds, saying  “I don’t want to die when I’m a teenager.” Four-year-old Ivan was the most unforgettable, dreaming to be superman so he could fly high and get his mom a place to live and a bed; and at Christmas hoping for a home with a bathroom and curtains.

These are the children, the stories, the realities, that compelled the birth of UrbanPromise and continue to compel our work in Camden and beyond.  We have learned we can’t prevent what our children face every day but we can off-set the trauma, poverty and violence through by offering a safe and nurturing environment, just as real, a peaceful community within the city, where our teens, parents, children, staff, and volunteers shape a different world, one in which our children grow and thrive.  Where love is the guiding principle, where hope is spoken, and where children are put first.   The 800 children and teens involved in our programs simple refer to this community as “Urban”.  

The programs we run at UrbanPromise, including our schools, afterschool program, experiential learning, and teen jobs, are innovative, nurturing, and holistic.  Ivan, Josh, and Karim grew up in our schools and afterschool programs.  At 14 they each became StreetLeaders, teens who are employed, trained, and deployed as leaders in our camps and afterschool programs.  They’ve gone on trips, seen opportunities that exist outside of their zip codes, gone on college tours, and been stretched beyond their imagination. 

It is not our programs alone that make the greatest difference, it is the community of caring people that embrace UrbanPromise’s children, weaving a network of relationships that root hope, love, confidence, opportunities, and faith into their mindset and their lives.  Our 200 volunteers, 100 teens, 600 children, 3,000 donors, hundreds of churches, businesses, and colleges, make up UrbanPromise, each doing a little, each a fiber that strengthens our community.

Ten years later, Diane Sawyer is once again allowing us to look into the lives of Ivan, Karim, and Josh, three young men who have been greatly affected by loss, violence, and grief.  Death, incarceration, teen parenting, poverty, and family and community violence have been markers in their lives.  Yet their strength and resilience is profound.  It is their spirit, purpose in life, outlook on the future, and daily-lived actions that make a difference in the lives of others and inspire us at UrbanPromise. It is truly a place where the extraordinary has become ordinary.  

In the last ten years, the world, of course, has changed. We now support 17-year old Ivan, in the face of his mother’s death, as he cares for his little brother and his father; we stand by 24-year old Josh, who at 7-years old was afraid to have hope, as he infuses hope, love, and safety into his young son’s life while pursuing his own goals; and we cheer on Karim as he goes onto college to pursue a life he once hoped for as a child.  Ten years ago, Ivan wanted to be Superman, and today, we see that all three of them have shown heroic resolve in keeping their own lives moving forward and not allowing the circumstances of their childhoods define them as men.

Thanks to so many of you, the next ten years is just as promising.

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