Urban Impact Opens in New Brunswick
by Tejal Sarbaugh
Urban Impact, a non-profit organization, is moving their volunteer work to New Brunswick in November to provide practical, physical and emotional support for poor families and youth.
The poverty rate in New Brunswick is 27.0 percent with the rate of unemployment being 10 percent, a high number compared to the nation’s unemployment rate of 7.9 percent. Mona Patel, Program Director of Urban Impact, said they are moving to this city because of these demographics. “There’s a lot of poverty in the city,” she said. “It’s a high concentration of people that need the life skills as well as the spiritual encouragement, and that’s what Urban Impact seeks to do.”
Urban Impact is offering four main weekly workshops for adults: Financial Literacy, English as a Second Language, Parenting and Job Training. Patel said Financial Literacy and Parenting have had the greatest impact in other cities such as Perth Amboy and Plainfield. The finance workshop will give adults, mainly parents, knowledge on the banking systems, a plan for budgeting and building credit and other practical techniques to save money. Patel explained that the Parenting Workshop will address prominent issues they have found within the city such as child abuse, how to parent children through stress and how to build relationships. “Most moms don’t work and don’t have two incomes. When moms are stressed, it affects the kids,” Patel said.
English as a Second Language is aimed more toward the immigrant population and the Spanish-speaking population, which is 49.9 percent in New Brunswick alone. Finally, Job Training will give practical tips on resume writing, job interviews and building self-confidence.
As for the city’s youth, Urban Impact targets teens from 13-18 years old. While their certified volunteers provide mentoring and tutoring in academics, they also have times of bonding through games, activities and especially food. “In the urban culture, some kids don’t eat three meals a day,” Patel said. Besides providing food and community, counselors also build relationships with teens outside of the two-hour weekly programs.
Vera Nyajure, team leader of the Girls’ Mentoring Program, said the aim as a volunteer is to guide, empower, and provide direction to their assigned teens. “They will gain tools to help them build healthy relationships and excel in school and careers,” she said. “They will be empowered to transform their families and community. The change in their lives will draw others to them. That is what we are about–impacting generations.”
Nyajure said the main method for helping the community is through this relationship building. Providing physical resources is only part of their organization’s mission. Originally having a foundation as a Christian ministry, Urban Impact aims to heal broken families spiritually and emotionally.
“When there’s healing emotionally and physically, there’s going to be happier people. And that contributes to a better environment for kids to grow up in,” Patel said.
All Urban Impact volunteers have undergone training until Patel deemed them ready and able. She said anyone interested in joining the organization must have a high commitment level and some qualifications to ensure that the citizens are getting the best help possible.
Urban Impact does not have its own building in New Brunswick, but it partners with existing charitable organizations in the city. Patel said the organization is already working to partner with Salvation Army, Youth Empowerment Services, and Teen Center before the end of the year. When Urban Impact lacks the resources to meet a family’s need, it directs them to other New Brunswick services. “Our role is to engage them with the people of the community and to equip them with volunteers,” she said.
Photo retrieved from urbanimpact.org