“To those who have a family, Found Village is their second family. For those who don’t have one at all–this is their family.”
There is no age that losing your family would be easy. For Shaniyah it happened at the impressionable age of seven when she was placed in foster care—separated from her only family. Through these years in foster care, Shaniyah experienced a lot of challenges, and with each obstacle her ability to trust others slowly diminished. When we met her, the wall of mistrust she had built due to constant disappointment under the foster care system seemed impermeable. Not only did she not trust anyone, but she openly admits that she did not really like anyone here at Found Village to top it all off. We certainly had our work cut out for us.
We aim to rebuild foundational trust with young people who have lost trust in the system, their peers, their families, and all too often, in themselves. By focusing on building trustworthy relationships, walls come down and allow for true transformation to take place.
For Shaniyah, it was not until she was placed with her coach that she started to realize we really are a safe place with safe people. Through building this bond, she realized that our coaches are not only people she could trust, but some of whom she can relate to due to the common childhood traumas that shaped them. Once she felt safe in our community, she began to bond with the other young women and create relationships that we hope with follow her into her adult years.
With these relationships have also come many challenges, and we would be remiss not to mention that even within our community Shaniyah has experienced conflict that resulted in fighting. She shared that even despite this incident, the Found Village staff has not judged her, and she appreciates that we continue to welcome her into this community. We are advocating for true change within our young people–this means we do not give up, even when they seem to. This means that after disciplinary action, comes a second chance, a third chance, and so forth. Whatever it takes.
Our approach aims to model true forgiveness and offers multiple chances to our young people so they may adapt this mindset into their personal lives. None of the young people in our community are broken, yet they are often misunderstood. It is essential that they are given a platform to express and learn from their mistakes. It’s here, in the messiness, that lives are changed for the better.
Shaniyah has come a long way since we first welcomed her into our community, and we are so proud of the young woman she is becoming. She is radiant, extremely intelligent, and surely has a bright future ahead due to her grit and determination. She was recently adopted by her cousin who is exemplifying what it means to not give up on family and setting a new tone for Shaniyah’s life. Join us in celebrating the amazing Found Village stories, like Shaniyah’s, by keeping our youth in your thoughts and prayers!