MAAFA Redemption Project: Redeeming a City, One Life at a Time
In Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood, a community of faith is investing in at-risk, emerging men of color—mind, body and soul. With the help of We Raise Foundation and friends like you, young men ages 18–30 are leaving their troubled pasts behind to become pillars of strength in their families and agents of change in their community.
This doesn’t happen overnight, but with dormitory-style residential support, workforce training, spiritual mentorship, life coaching, and a host of wrap-around social services, the impact of the MAAFA Redemption Project just keeps growing. The program is now in its seventh year, and graduates are serving as mentors and volunteers, reaching more and more participants with education, support, and the hope of the Gospel.
Dylan is one such young man. His high school years were marked by of a series of bad choices and narrow escapes with the law. He craved status, followed the wrong crowd, and earned the admiration of his peers by, in his words, “doing bad stuff.” At one point, his high school counselor looked him in the eye and said, “You’re so smart. Why are you making such bad decisions?”
The counselor encouraged Dylan to apply to a university, but Dylan wasn’t interested. Instead, he enrolled in community college, but lacking a vision for his future, drug use and violence hampered his success.
At the age of 20, Dylan knew he had to change. He was determined to be a better role model for his little sister. A friend had completed his cohort at MAAFA and persuaded Dylan to check it out.
Through MAAFA, Dylan came to recognize that talent alone wasn’t enough for success; self-discipline was key. His pre-apprenticeship program gave him a sense of self-worth and accomplishment, while teaching him humility that enabled him to submit to rules about things such as maintaining a tidy appearance. Bible readings and morning meditations began to make sense, and he was surprised at how instructive the Bible can be. Upon graduation, he looked back and marveled at his own transformation. “I’d become nicer… more genuine. And a lot more level-headed.”
While Dylan grew in faith and character, he was also trained in a trade he takes pride in. Now 24 and a union pipe fitter, Dylan is pleased with his choice of profession. His humble attitude enabled reconciliation with his mom, and he’s okay with his sister looking up to him as a role model now. “She’s my little best friend,” he says with a grin.
Currently, MAAFA is spearheading a collaborative effort to bring the Sankofa Wellness Village to the community. The Village would connect the neighborhood with health care and wellness programs to improve life expectancy, community wellbeing, and financial stability.
Your generous gifts are not only transforming the lives of individuals, but the entire community of West Garfield Park. Thank you for bringing hope and change through your partnership with We Raise.