- Faith & Family
A popular African saying has always advised that it takes a village to raise a child.
The Urban Partnership Drug-Free Community Coalition believes it will take a village to lower the youth drug rate in the communities of Liberty City, Little Haiti and the inner city of Miami.
The idea is that by bringing different segments of the community together, the coordinated efforts will yield better results than traditional, isolated anti-drug campaigns, according to Michael Nozile, the executive director of Gang Alternative, Inc., who is also a member of the coalition.
“We did research and realized that the use of alcohol and marijuana have been increasing among our youth in 6th grade to 12th grade,” Nozile said.
The Urban Partnership Drug-Free Community Coalition intends to lower that rate by using several strategies including building local drug surveillance systems, researching the reasons why drug use has increased, and providing a network of safe havens for at risk-youths.
Building a coalition to reach a village
Although the coalition has been meeting for nearly two years, the organization finally was awarded a $125,000 Drug Free Communities Support Program grant by the White House in October 2011.
However, before their efforts can be put into action, first the coalition must ensure participation from 12 different sectors of the community – as part of their agreement for their grant. The sectors include law enforcement, social services, the faith community as well as local youth and parents.
So far, representatives from a variety of organizations from the Hosanna Community Foundation, to the Miami Police Department, to the Florida Department of Children and Families to middle school students have volunteered.
One of the these volunteers, Rev. Eddy Gervais of the Community Christian Church, believes each member of the coalition brings a different way to combat drug usage.
The church has a “unique role because no one else is covering the spiritual aspect of life and the church is always coming from a place of hope,” he explained, “and when there is a message of hope it tends to give people a sense of self-esteem and gives an emotional boost.”
According to Nozile, the coalition has been warmly received by many and he hopes that all participants will be finalized by April.
“What we’re doing right now sounds easy, but it is hard to bring everyone around the table to volunteer their time to address these issues in our community,” he said.
In the latest meeting, which was held on Thursday, Jan. 20th, the coalition had assigned volunteers to specific subcommittees.
The Urban Partnership Drug Free Community Coalition meets on the third Thursday of every month at 311 NE 78th Street in Miami. For more information about the coalition or to volunteer, please call Vivilora D. Perkins Smith at 305-398-5985.
By Kaila Heard