UrbanPromise intern Aaron Orr was playing basketball on the courts in Southbridge, a very tough neighborhood where UrbanPromise has two of our six summer camps. Playing ball in our neighborhoods is a great outreach. These pick up games are a cross section of the neighborhood. Negativity on the court is standard practice. In the neighborhoods being kind and encouraging is not a way to show strength, and being weak is a good way to get picked on. 11 year old Kyare was being particularly negative, mocking every body’s skills, name calling and making threats. I would have tossed him out of the game, but Aaron pulled him aside.
“If you keep being this negative you’re going to make the whole game negative. Be a leader, be positive, set an example, and the other kids will follow you.”
“Nobody’s positive in Southbridge,” Kyare countered.
What an interesting comment from an 11 year old. First, that he was conscious of this, secondly that it informed how he should behave. How does it shape a child’s world view if he has no hope? Why should you behave differently if no one shows you how or why? In fact, everything around you suggests you’d be a fool to be positive. Without Aaron, the story would stop there and the cycle of negativity, of failure and foolishness and fear, would continue.
Aaron was undaunted.
“What about Mr. Malachi, he’s positive.”
Kyare hesitated. No counter here. Malachi is the 17 year old Team Leader of our Camp Hope in Southbridge, a position he earned by being a strong positive role model to kids including Kyare, for the last three years, a high this fall. If there is any wiggle room in an argu-school graduate heading to university in Ohio ment like this kids will take it, but there wasn’t a wiggle to be found here. Malachi is a straight up positive force in Southbridge and Kyare knew it.
“Yeah…ok… Malachi’s positive.”
This was a beach head in the battle for Kyare’s heart and mind. And Kyare is a beach head in the battle for our neighborhoods. There was a young man he knew, Malachi, who grew up in Southbridge, who was successful, respected, and bold, and who had character so strong Kyare could not find fault. Giving advice had little impact on Kyare, but pointing to a role model was a compelling challenge to his broken world view.
“You don’t know if the kids will listen, but I just speak life into them and allow God to do the rest,” Aaron explained when I asked him why he bothered to challenge Kyare.
Kids don’t need platitudes, they need people, people like Aaron and Malachi who earn respect by how they walk so people listen when they talk.
We have those people, committed, courageous, talented young people like Aaron who are following a call to serve God. I need your help to support them. Over 20 young people have given up their summer to serve as interns in our camps. They will work 24/7 for eight weeks this summer living in our neighborhoods, building relationships, visiting homes, teaching in our camps and sharing their lives with kids and teens and each other. Leaders like Malachi have been nurtured by the service of interns over many years. Most of our full time staff were once interns.
It costs about $1500 to support an intern for the summer. While some have raised support, many struggle. Let me give you an example. Nichelle Holland was a kid in our programs 15 years ago. She became a StreetLeader, graduated, and just finished her second year of college. Nichelle wanted to give back to UrbanPromise and chose to be a summer intern. Her family has lived on what is literally one of the toughest streets in Wilmington all her life. They have no network of contacts to send support letters to or ask for funds from. I need you to be her support network. Only about a third of the support we need for our interns has been raised. They are doing so much, please give them some relief by taking this off their minds and covering the support gap.
It will cost $100 to feed Nichelle for the summer (truthfully, Nichelle is really petite, and I doubt she’ll eat that much, but Dave Rowland is about six four and he’ll need her share and more!). $250 would support an intern for a week.
It takes people, not programs, to make a difference. You can’t be an intern, but you can definitely make a difference with your gift and help one.