Urban Youth

Youth in Seattle with a Freechild Project summer camp

Living in a place shouldn’t condemn a person to poor health, weak education, unsafe living conditions or segregation from other races, socio-economic classes and religions. However, in cities around the world urban youth face countless barriers to successful lives. Experience and research shows that these same young people are engaged in substantive activities focused on changing the world, they become empowered, wise and transformative leaders. Urban youth can transform the lives of younger people, their peers, adults and elders living among them and throughout their cities.

There’s no reason why children in inner cities or rural areas do not receive the same quality education or opportunities as those in suburbs or wealthy neighborhoods. If we truly believe in giving all citizens a chance to pursue happiness and pursue their goals, then we cannot continue to marginalize entire groups of people. — Al Sharpton

 

Ways Urban Youth are Changing the World

Youth Leadership — When urban youth are needed to fill in gaps, or where adults refuse the power of youth, youth leadership can be a substantive tool for communities. Building skills sets like communication, problem-solving, change management and peaceful negotiations, urban youth leadership programs, activities and organizations can be beacons of hope.

Youth as Mentors — Providing positive, intentional role models is an important task urban youth can excel through. Whether mentoring with younger children or adults, young people can build trust, mutual investment, and meaningful interactions into the daily lives of their mentees, and learn from them, too.

Youth Media Makers — Learning how to make media that reflects their communities’ true realities without sensationalizing, glorifying or otherwise manipulating circumstances, urban youth media makers can change the world. Its vital to use the media popular within a community to reach that community and beyond, whether on the Internet, through video or print, or via texting.

 

"Precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience you must find yourself at war with your society." - James Baldwin

 

Things Urban Youth Need to Change the World

Education — Education in cities should focus on developing a strong commitment within children and youth to transforming their urban communities from within, and changing the entire world. They should learn about urban transformation, economic development, cultural enrichment, community building and youth-led activism.

Funding — Urban youth deserve every opportunity to build their communities, progress their lives and build social justice simply because they live in cities. However, simply because they live in cities they often don’t have access to the fiscal resources of other young people. Foundations, government agencies and other funders should provide specific, sustained and substantial funding opportunities for urban young people to change the world.

Inspiration —  Living in poverty, struggling with family / gender / gang violence, and experiencing daily discrimination and fighting community depression can challenge the strongest people. Children and youth face the outcomes far more than adults. Inspiration and motivation for understanding they can change  the world in positive ways; have meaningful, positive effects on their communities; and see relevant outcomes that affect their lives and their families can be absolutely essential.

 

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Youth and Foster Care

Youth are changing the world right now.

Despite how they’re often treated, young people in the foster care system are powerful beyond measure. Even though they rarely have significant and meaningful opportunities to share their concerns and ideas or make meaningful decisions about the systems that control their lives, youth and foster care often need each other. Transforming foster care by empowering children and youth in foster care is absolutely vital. Rather than focusing on speaking for children and youth or doing things to children and youth, the foster care system should take action with young people to improve the system and outcomes.

Don’t try to silence me or my thoughts on being adopted. I have a voice, and everything I say is the truth and valid. I have been through it, therefore, I know. This is my story. — Source unknown

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Foster Care

Youth as Decision-Makers — Young people in foster care should have substantial opportunities to make decisions for themselves. Adults should teach children and youth healthy and successful decision-making skills, and facilitate decision-making for every children and youth in foster care to experience personal, group and systemic decision-making, too.

Youth Evaluation — Positioning youth as evaluators can provide meaningful, applicable and real ways to change the world through foster care. Whether evaluating their placements, support services, counselors or other individuals and activities that affect them directly, or integrating them throughout community-wide evaluation activities, young people in foster care can share powerful assessments of their world.

Community Youth Development — In addition to teaching foster youth independent living skills, it is essential they learn how to rely on others throughout their communities in healthy, supportive and empowering ways. Interdependent living skills can be learned through community youth development strategies that are designed to integrate foster children and foster youth throughout their communities, whether geographic, cultural or otherwise.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Foster Care

Opportunities — Foster care is an adult-driven system with adult-determined goals operated by adults for the benefit of adults, all focused on children and youth. Young people need substantial, relevant and meaningful opportunities to affect the system. These should not be tokenistic, belittling, demeaning, manipulative or otherwise negative. Instead, they should be equitable, geared towards youth/adult partnerships and transformative for everyone involved, including children, youth and adults.

Training — Whether they’re learning how to transform foster care in group homes, in nonprofits, through government programs, with foundations, or through the media, children and youth in foster care should have significant training. Their skills should be developed to ensure successful action, while their knowledge should be shared to encourage meaningful personal development.

Technology — Using every technology available to them, children and youth in foster care can change the world. Texting can increase communication and community building among youth in foster care, while social media can help ensure that foster childrens’ voices are heard. Building websites and forming organizations online can further systemic goals focused on youth engagement, while access to the Internet can be a building block for further action.

 

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Youth and International Development

SoundOut Student Voice Team in Seattle

After millennia of European domination, nations around the world are emerging in healthy, powerful ways. International development is slowly coming to focus on the whole planet, including young people.  Youth and international development are tied together, addressing a variety of issues including extreme poverty and hunger; universal education; gender equality and women’s empowerment; ending child mortality; improving maternal health; ending HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global commitment to human empowerment. Youth are partnering with adults to lead these movements today and towards the future.

When we’re talking about youth participation, we’re talking about challenging longstanding practices that hinder young people participating at all levels. So when we hear our leaders talking about young people getting involved, we actually would like to see them follow that through with concrete suggestions, such as a quote on all decision making boards for young people. — Jacque Koroi

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through International Development

Youth as Decision-Makers — Whether they’re focusing on economics, hunger or other issues, young decision-makers can be major contributors to international development through decision-making. Becoming active, involved and full members of boards and decision-making committees in international NGO and international specialized agencies can empower and engage young people in changing the world.

Youth as Movement Leaders — Working on their own or as partners with adults, young people can lead movements focused on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals or any international development issues that matter to them. Working across the Internet, using social media, texting or on the ground in local communities, youth can change the world as movement leaders.

Youth Media Makers — Learning about the issues that matter to them and taking action to inform others, children and youth can create and promote a variety of media, including print, online and video. Sharing messages and building consensus, youth media makers can create new approaches and foster new support for international development.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through International Development

Opportunities — Creating, building, sustaining or recreating opportunities for youth involvement in international development can be vital for engaging youth. Opportunities can be systemic, educational, cultural, social, religious, or otherwise.

Education — Working with adults as allies or on their own, children and youth can learn the essential knowledge they need to take action for international development. Whether they’re promoting NGOs becoming involved in their local communities and nations, or working for those NGOs to building youth involvement or youth activism, young people can change the world by learning about international development.

Inspiration — With so many traditional messages focusing on “act local, think global”, it’s important for young people to get inspired to take on international development. As integral leaders over the last twenty years, young people have taken action, changed policies, and helped millions of people around the world. Sharing these stories and building interest matters.

 

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Youth and Government

Freechild Project youth in New Hampshire

Democracy demands active, involved and engaged citizens taking almost-constant action to make societies better places. Counting as more than 25% of the human population, children and youth are routinely, consistently and constantly left out of governments at all levels today. However, growing numbers of local, state, national and international government bodies are engaging young people. Bringing together youth and government can transform societies and change the world in countless ways.

“Words like ”freedom,’ ‘justice,’ ‘democracy” are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous and, above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply.”— James Baldwin

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through the Government

Youth as Policy-Makers — Empowering young people to participate as full-fledged policy-makers includes providing educating nontraditional youth leaders, providing substantive opportunities for action, and training adults as allies throughout the process. Through meaningful youth involvement, young people can transform systems, empower communities and infuse adult-driven institutions with youth power.

Community Youth Development — When young people are systemically involved throughout their communities, applying powerful skills and knowledge along the way, they can shift governments into action and encourage powerful transformation. Community youth development can also build the capacities of children and youth, their peers, families and others to change the world, too!

Service Learning — Combining meaningful service with real classroom learning goals can give students substantive opportunities to improve government services, engage more people in democratic processes, and ensure people stay informed and empowered through action. Service learning can teach students vital knowledge and build their skills to change the world. When infused in government, it can be more real than ever!

 

The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!
The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through the Government

Opportunities — There must be substantial and inclusive opportunities for young people of all ages to affect governance. This can happen at the neighborhood level through community associations; at the village, town or city level by getting youth on board, creating positions for youth as city council members, or lowering the local voting age; at the county and parish level by creating youth action boards and lowering the voting age; at the state and provincial levels in many ways, including youth as staff and youth empowerment activities; and on the federal and international levels. These must be fully empowered, fully trained and focused on youth mainstreaming.

Training — Young people need high quality, practical training on the ways government operates, what difference it makes and why it matters to be involved. Focused on skill development, training can include communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Emphasizing knowledge-sharing, training can focus on democratic purpose, government functions and interacting with the public.

Inspiration — Young people need to know what government is, what government does and most importantly, how government operates. Without pedantic traditional classroom teaching styles, they should learn function, purpose, operation and outcomes, as well as how to successfully advocate for what matters most to them, their families and their communities.

 

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Youth and Community Development

Check Your Perspective exercise by The Freechild Project

Working together with other members of their communities, including children, adults and elders, youth and community development offer ways youth can change the world few other activities can. Community development happens when people take action to solve common problems affecting the places they live, work and play everyday. Community members, neighborhood activities, elected officials, professionals and youth can all work together to build better communities for everyone affected. Increasingly, when foundations, government programs, and innovative community organizations want creative solutions to difficult funding issues, they turn to young people for solutions. Oftentimes, youth are connected to their communities in more authentic and unhindered ways than adults that can help communities by better understood.

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often the real loser — in fees, and expenses, and waste of time. As a peace-maker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough. — Abraham Lincoln

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Community Development

Youth as Community Organizers — When governments won’t engage youth, community groups and nonprofits can step in to engage youth as community organizers. Through training and empowerment, they can develop unique, powerful campaigns that engage many people, including children, youth, adults, families and elders.

Youth and Government — Participating in regular and sustained government positions, roles and activities can allow youth community developers to change the world. Roles should be rull voting and frequent, and focus on engaging diverse young people.

Youth as Planners — Young people can participate as community planners in community development work. Using education and training, they can learn the skills and knowledge they need, and applying their knowledge they can guide their peers, younger people and adults, too.

 

The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide by Adam Fletcher
Order The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Community Development

Opportunities — Local governments, nonprofits and advocates should create substantive, sustainable opportunities for children and youth to contribute to community development. There should be regular, ongoing activities and visual, transparent outcomes.

Training — Training young people about community development can be engaging and empowering in many ways. Children and youth can learn what community is, how communities are built, where community development and planning fails, and what roles they can play throughout the processes.

Stories — Young people can become motivated and inspired to create change through community development with stories. The stories of their friends, families and peers are important, as can be stories from other youth around the world.

 


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  • Growing Up in Cities – Growing Up in Cities provides models of interdisciplinary, intersectoral collaboration for listening to the voices of young people and creating more responsive urban policies and practices.
  • Kids and Community– A website developed by city planners to encourage kids to learn about cities and get involved in changing them.
  • Children, Youth, and Environments Journal – CYE is an international, multidisciplinary network of researchers, policy makers and practitioners working to improve the living conditions of children and youth. CYE supports the sharing of knowledge and experience, while recognizing young people’s capacity for meaningful participation in the processes that shape their lives.
  • Project for Public Spaces – A nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people of all ages create the kinds of places that build communities. We achieve this through technical assistance, training, research and education – as well as programs in parks, plazas and central squares; transportation; public buildings; and architecture and public markets. Website includes examples, tip sheets, and more.
  • California Center Youth Voices – Improves youth awareness of and involvement in community planning and land-use decisions.

 

 

 

 

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Youth and Racism

Freechild Project youth protest in Seattle

Youth and racism are wound together, depending on each other to unravel the pain, hurt and despicable enduring nature of racism. Being “against racism” is to be against any system based on some kind of supremacy, including white supremacy, racial supremacy of any kind, tribal supremacy, class supremacy, even male and female chauvinism. Young people are taking power action against racism and making their communities more powerful, empowering places for all people to live in.

Washing ones hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. — Paulo Freire

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World focusing on Racism

Youth-Led Activism — When adults won’t partner with young people or when young people want to take immediate action without permission, they can lead their own community organizing projects and rallying their peers to create change, or take action on their own. Picketing, sit-ins, boycotts and social media action are just some of the ways youth-led activism can affect racism.

Service Learning — Studying the social effects of racism, young people are building communities through service learning. Programs focused on white privilege, empowering communities of color and more can teach students about racism in distinctly effective ways. When facilitated effectively, service learning encourages students to apply their learning throughout their lives.

Youth and Incarceration — Young people are challenging the school-to-prison pipeline, long-term incarceration, incarcerating youth with adults, and solitary confinement within prisons, all wrapped together with analysis focused on the disproportionate incarceration of people of color. Youth and incarceration shouldn’t be synonymous, and youth can change the world when they focus on ending the racism which makes this happen.

 

The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide by Adam Fletcher
Order The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World focusing on Racism

Education — Learning about the history of racism isn’t enough. Young people need to understand their role in white privilege and racism, whether they’re people of color or white. Learning how to see privilege, dismantle white supremacy, overcome structural racism and fight against dominant cultural norms is essential, too.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Creating intentional relationships designed to foster trust, communication, mutual investment and meaningful involvement can effectively engage youth in changing the world focused on racism. Young people can transform communities and organizations through youth/adult partnerships, increasing effective action and building support along the way.

Opportunities — Young people need substantive opportunities to take action against racism. Schools, neighborhood groups, nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations can create opportunities. Young people can create their own opportunities through youth-led community organizing and youth-led programs, too.

 

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Youth and Public Health

Seattle students in a Freechild workshop discuss issues with an adult ally

Public health is made of organized efforts around the world that aim at to prevent disease and promote health across our communities. Tied together through education, action, evaluation and advocacy, youth and public health are addressing a lot of issues, including HIV/AIDs, smoking, pregnancy prevention, and more.

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito. — Source unknown

 

Ways Youth can Change the World focusing on Public Health

Youth as Teachers — Young people can be some of the best public health educators, whether teaching their parents, their siblings, other young people or adults throughout their communities. Engaging youth as teachers can quickly normalize activities, knowledge and attitudes that are different or new for their communities in ways adults cannot, and can reach people others can’t, either.

Social Media — Texting public health messages and sharing public health knowledge with their peers and other throughout social media can help youth be powerful communicators and recruiters. Social media can also help youth educators build community around their issues, roles and regions, too.

Youth-Led Activism — When adults won’t listen to youth voice or allow youth participation, young people can make their voices heard through activism. Whether they are organizing communities, leading sit-ins, advocating for policy change or building online movements, young people can be powerful activists for issues that matter to them.

 

The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!
The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World focusing on Public Health

Education — Young people should know the basic, elemental parts of public health all of the time, no matter who they are, where they live or how much money their families and communities have. However, to change the world with public health, children and youth should learn critical thinking skills, build their knowledge base, and expand their abilities.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Working with adults as partners is a sure way to change the world through public health. Young people can teach adults about issues that matter while receiving the support, encouragement and knowledge of adults.

Funding — Securing and sustaining funding is vital for youth-led public health action. Changing the world through active engagement in the issues that affect them most, children and youth deserve the fiscal support they need for programs, activities and outcomes that reflect the importance of public health throughout our lives and communities.

 

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Mediators

Freechild Project youth in São Paulo, Brazil.

Engaging youth as mediators teaches young people to understand conflict within themselves and others. Discovering how they influence conflict, how to self-manage conflict, and how to identify strategies for calmness and clarity is enhanced by learning listening and speaking skills and how to understand other peoples’ point of view. Youth mediators can help other youth, younger students, and adults to have important conversations in order to become clearer themselves, understand each other’s perspectives, and make decisions about next steps. Youth can change the world as mediators when they apply these skills throughout their lives, including at home, in school, and throughout their communities.

You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist. — Indira Gandhi

Ways for Youth + Social Change through Youth Mediation

Youth-Led Programs — Young people can learn the deep parts of conflict resolution, become program designers and managers, and lead their own efforts to promote mediation in their schools and communities. Young people transform relationships when they move past struggle and towards interdependence and community-building.

Youth Courts — Youth courts are powerful tools for young people to develop their own capacity for problem-solving and mediation. Through jurisdiction and official proceedings, youth can reduce recidivism, promote conflict resolution and build communities instead of tearing them apart like traditional juvenile justice programs have.

Youth Managing Adult Staff — When young people participate in hiring, training, supervising and evaluating adult staff, they balance the perceptions of power within organizations and throughout communities. This acts towards mediation by empowering those who are taught, watched and facilitated by adults with the ability to rectify their challenges with adults, laying a substantive foundation for youth/adult partnerships.

Needs for Youth + Social Change through Youth Mediation

Education — Comprehensive youth mediation programs should include education for youth and adults on how to: Identify goals and outcomes; Identify and engage stakeholders, Create a team to plan and develop the program, Develop systems including referral, intake, mediation coordination; and Train students to become mediators and providing continuing education. Programs should also receive on-going technical assistance. Youth mediator programs should have immediately positive impact on conflict and be sustainable.

Opportunities — Young people need substantial opportunities to be mediators in the places they spend the most time, including at home, in schools and throughout their communities. They also need real adult allies who stand with them for mediation, and support from government agencies, law enforcement and others.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Real youth/adult partnerships engage young people and adults in equitable relationships that can build the power, purpose and potential of youth mediators. Through transparency, communication, mutual investment and meaningful involvement, young people and adults can transform community culture for the better.

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Experiential Learning for Youth + Social Change

SoundOut Summer Camp Participants

When young people learn through doing, they are participating in experiential learning. When youth-led experiential learning is happening, young people focus on real issues they can relate to that are taken from the real world they live within. Experiential learning is individually oriented, even when children and youth work in groups. Action learning, service learning, cooperative learning and challenge learning are all forms of experiential learning.

“…for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them” — Aristotle

Ways Youth can Change the World through Experiential Learning

Youth-Led Projects — When young people lead experiential learning, they can change the world. Learning about different activities, planning experiences, facilitating groups and assessing their projects can show youth they are powerful beyond measure.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Working with adults as allies allows young people to build their abilities, knowledge and skills in safe, healthy relationships. Experiential learning can allow children and youth to build new understandings of how teaching and learning happens.

Community Youth Development — Become engaged in actively, meaningfully changing their communities can give young people opportunities to learn through experience while changing the world. Learning about community, social change and action is at the heart of CYD.

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Experiential Learning

Training — Learning about experiential learning as a concept and a practice can build the ability of children and youth to make life experiences more meaningful for themselves. They can be trained in the methodology, in the facilitation, in assessment and in how to apply experiential learning beliefs across different applications.

Inspiration — Going through learning activities without knowing what is happening, why its happening and where its going to, young people can lose their motivation for learning. Becoming inspired can happen through storytelling and a lot of other ways.

Classroom Credit — Experiential learning can be challenging to plan, hard to facilitate and risky to assess. Acknowledging the energy, action and goals of learners with classroom credit can add substance, meaning and depth to experiential learning.

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Youth Infusion

Freechild Project youth and adult workshop participants

The term youth infusion was coined by expert and Freechild Project advisor Wendy Lesko, who says the term summarizes “where young people are involved in every conceivable way — as volunteers and paid community organizers, as facilitators and trainers, as conference planners, and as full-fledged members on a board of directors.”

The Freechild Project expands on Wendy’s idea and suggests youth infusion means the absolute and complete integration of youth throughout all of society. It encapsulates the total end of all age-based restrictions against children and youth, instead acknowledging their vast and under-acknowledged contributions and energies as they apply throughout homes, schools, organizations, communities, nations and the world. As youth infusion becomes apparent throughout a society, young people gain the rights to vote, move freely, and partake in the economy. They also gain the responsibilities of paying taxes, engaging civically and building community.

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Youth Infusion

Youth Mainstreaming — Transforming institutions by engaging young people throughout their functions is a key step towards youth infusion, and is embodied by youth mainstreaming. Professional development, training and programs should reflect this commitment.

Policy-Ins — Changing organizational policies can be harrowing, especially when nonprofits, government agencies and legislative bodies have dozens and hundreds of pages. Policy-ins give youth and adults opportunities to work together to study existing policies, propose changes and work together to infuse youth throughout policies.

Mutual Mentoring — Working together with adults as allies, youth can teach adults and be taught by adults in a mutually-beneficial way. Eliminating the barriers of adultism, youth infusion can be fostered

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Youth Infusion

Education — Before young people can effectively become infused throughout the organizations and communities they spend their lives in, they can learn about the vision, mission, goals, functions and outcomes of the places they are at. They can learn about the issues they’re addressing and the most effective actions to take. Perhaps most importantly, they can become more effectively involved throughout the organizations and communities where youth infusion is the goal.

Opportunities — Youth infusion can happen in organizations and communities that create deliberate, intentional and accountable opportunities. Youth/adult partnerships become apparent throughout every step, including transparency, mutual accountability and each of the principles involved. There are also structural and systemic actions taken that foster youth infusion, too.

Champions — Whether they are youth or adults, every organization and community needs a champion for youth infusion. These champions can be the people served, staff, managers, or board directors. Oftentimes, the most effective champions are leaders who believe in youth infusion.

 

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