ArE THERE OTHERS WE CAN LEARN FROM?
The Graffiti Network has been doing this work in NYC for over forty years. Although there is always more to learn, the principles and best practices developed at Graffiti can now help others in their work serving children, teens, and families.
Take a look at how Graffiti 2 Community Ministries has applied these principles and best practices in the South Bronx.
Graffiti 2 Community Ministries has been serving the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx for fourteen years. Since the 1970s Mott Haven has been identified as a community of need, often ranked as one of the most challenging neighborhoods in the city to raise kids. Children and families in the Mott Haven neighborhood are particularly vulnerable to ACEs because of the predominance of risk factors involving education, health, safety, family, and environment.
Build a fence at the top of the cliff not a hospital at the bottom . . .
Believing it is better to build a fence at the top of the cliff than a hospital at the bottom, the core of Graffiti 2’s mission is focused on children, teens, and families. Graffiti 2’s afterschool and summer sports programs provide participants a safe environment, holistic enrichment, and meaningful relationships, all of which are proven to prevent or minimize the harmful long-term effects of ACEs.
It’s about big change, not big numbers . . .
Two principles guide Graffiti 2 in providing a safe environment. The first principle: it’s about big change, not big numbers. In communities of need, one thing there is always more of is need. It is better to do well with a few than be overwhelmed with many. The second principle Graffiti 2 embraces to create a safe environment is stay above reproach. For the protection of all participants, volunteers, and staff, it is essential that no one ever be alone with a student, no exceptions; furthermore, volunteers and adults should be trained and held accountable to written policies and procedures for sexual misconduct and program operations.
So much of life is about the inside not the outside . . .
To holistically enrich participants, Graffiti 2’s programs are designed to strengthen individuals physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Tutoring and sports training are merely small components of Graffiti 2’s programs. Equally important are strategies that teach behavior, peacemaking, character formation, and spiritual development. After all, so much of life is about the inside, not the outside.
Programs don’t change people, people change people . . .
Ultimately, Graffiti 2’s programs aren’t about the programs, they are about the people. Programs don’t change people, people change people. Graffiti 2 provides a supportive environment for children, teens, and adult to build meaningful relationships that last a lifetime. These relationships provide stability, counsel, encouragement, and mentoring. Ultimately, it’s these relationships that provide the opportunity for believers to plant and nourish seeds of the gospel.
Be light not lightning . . .
Often in communities like Mott Haven, where children and youth are particularly at risk for ACEs, the church’s response to the need has either been neglected or unsustained. Unsure of what to do, churches focus on easier forms of ministry where success is more easily seen, or they host a large outreach event that blesses many, but has no lasting presence. Conversely, Graffiti 2 aims to be light, not lightning. Whereas lightning makes a big flash and is gone, sometimes causing damage, Graffiti 2 is committed to shining light like a street light—sometimes not noticed, but providing light to guide the way. Through this commitment to provide a safe environment, holistic enrichment, and meaningful relationships, Graffiti 2 is preventing ACEs, providing healing and hope to those that have suffered such trauma, and changing lives by introducing children, teens, and adults to a Savior that redeems all brokenness.