The Angels of Harlem
Remaining in New York, but in Harlem, an area of northern Manhattan known for being a major African American residential, cultural and business center, we had the privilege of visiting the Harlem Children’s Zone.
Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ)
The team at the Harlem Children’s Zone have a holistic approach to working with children, which includes education, health, social and emotional needs and soft skills to ensure children develop in to responsible and fulfilled members of the community. They believe that the success of children and the strength of the community go hand in hand and must be addressed together in order to break the cycle of poverty.
Harlem Children’s Zone have developed a comprehensive ‘pipeline’ of programs supporting children at each stage of their development; from birth to college graduation. These include two schools for 5 to 18 year olds, plus early childhood, after-school, college, prevention and community programs.
In 2017, HCZ were working with 13,447 children & 14,126 adults.
During our visit to the Promise Academy – located at the heart of 129th Street – Assistant Director Janet-Marie Lopez, explained how HCZ believe that there are five keys to bringing transformation:
- build and rebuild community
- best practice at each stage of a child’s life
- data and evaluation
‘Best practice at each stage of a child’s life’
…particularly resonates with the focus, the aims and objectives of this research. Having studied, observed and learnt so much about a variety of approaches, curricula and programs, visiting schools is challenging one’s thinking – to consider whether an approach is age appropriate for the developmental needs of the children, if it aligns with Soul Action’s philosophy and image of the child, and will support the child and family to thrive?
In developing best practice, Soul Action recognises the vital importance of working alongside and with parents / carers and significant community members, so that children have adults around them who can support their holistic development.
It was so beneficial to hear about the variety of ways in which the Harlem Children’s Zone connect and engage with parents / carers on a regular basis.
In Durban, the plan is to develop a range of life-giving structures that will encourage relationships, dialogue and participation of parents / carers.