This NYC nonprofit provides kids with the emotional and nutritional support they need to thrive
Faces in Between takes a holistic approach to educating school children about nutrition and healthy eating by giving them the tools they need to prepare their own healthy meals.
As a young girl, I dreamed of living in a world where all people had access to shelter, education, nutritious food, and supportive role models. Since then, I have sought out opportunities to serve however I could, from working in refugee resettlement in my hometown to helping those with HIV/AIDS access healthcare abroad. I’ve witnessed immense suffering caused by chronic problems that were complex yet solvable, and seen first-hand how people survive hardship, and heal and thrive after experiencing trauma.
I wanted to make the greatest impact I could by developing and implementing effective solutions to increase well-being and tackle complex social issues.
I joined the board of the budding nonprofit Faces in Between when I moved to New York City in 2016, with this goal in mind. With the knowledge that there are more than 65,000 individuals currently in the shelter system and thousands more living on the street, Faces In Between addresses homelessness through community outreach and support.
Two years later, in 2018, I became president of the organization and in my new leadership capacity, I began to restructure our approach, developing a long-term plan that effectively responded to community needs. I spent many hours sitting on street corners and had hundreds of conversations with community members. I wanted to understand the complex issues they were facing and ensure that Faces in Between made a meaningful impact. I saw first-hand how people ignore and mistreat our homeless population, echoed by their own sentiments of feeling unseen and unheard. From these conversations, our Speaker Series was born.
Through the Speaker Series, individuals who are currently homeless share their stories and advocate on behalf of themselves, destigmatizing homelessness in various settings throughout the city. Afterward, each attendee makes care packages and has the opportunity to distribute them into their own communities, meeting homeless neighbors who they might not have met before.
Before I took over Faces in Between, it was my mission to eradicate the need for nonprofits like ours. Now I have the opportunity to shape the organization’s future with this ultimate goal in mind. In collaboration with friends and colleagues, I realized that our next step was expanding to meet youth and adolescent needs—which has been my passion from a young age. And so, Faces in Between’s newest program was born in the form of the SNACC Program, which stands for Sustainable Nutrition And Community Connection.
Children should be able to realize their full potential, but that can be challenging when some grow up lacking the necessary resources for healthy development. We understood that the barriers to students thriving in their developmental years were often unmet emotional and nutritional needs. So, we piloted our after-school program, SNACC, at an New York Title 1 school.
At each SNACC program session, students are given the opportunity to learn how to make a nutritious and affordable meal from a New York City chef. Students gain the skills and knowledge to prepare meals independently while also strengthening their social-emotional skills. The students have an opportunity to eat the meal that they cooked in the classroom as well as take a second portion to-go at the end of the session. This model uniquely gives the students the opportunity to focus on being a kid and to provide themselves and/or their loved ones with a meal that they put hard work and energy into.
I still struggle with the fact that there are so many more children and adults in need with whom our program has not yet engaged, especially in harder-to-reach areas of the city. I try to remind myself that this is a stepping stone to wide-spread change. Faces in Between and the SNACC Program will continue to expand and evolve to serve our communities.
I will leave you with some things that I’ve learned so far in this work:
- Take risks. You never know what you can achieve until you try.
- Think outside of the box.
- Don’t over-complicate the solution.
- Set attainable goals.
- Don’t be afraid to ask because people want to help.
- Draw on people’s passions, interests, excitement, and abilities and find the “volunteer” opportunity that’s best for them.
- The community is everything! The success of Faces in Between and The SNACC Program is 100 percent owed to the community.
- Meet people where THEY are at and understand that it might be completely different than where you are at.
- Obstacles are unavoidable but your attitude towards every challenge is in your control.
- There is no such thing as a failure; every mistake can be learned from.
- No meeting is a waste of time. Every opportunity that you have to sit down, share your story, and hear someone else’s story is time well-spent.
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