The House of Umoja began operating in Philadelphia during the 1970’s as a unique grassroots program initiated by community residents David and Falaka Fattah (National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, 1999; see also Woodson, 1981, 1986, 1998). Using their own resources and their home as a base of operations, they created this family-centered community institution that effectively mediated gang conflicts and came to serve as a source of counsel and individual development for neighborhood gang and nongang youth. The family model “provides a sense of belonging, identity, and self-worth that was previously sought through gang membership” (National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, 1999:59). Through reparenting and providing role models, the House of Umoja has “successfully transformed more than five hundred frightened, frustrated, and alienated young minority males into self-assured, competent, concerned, and productive citizens” (National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, 1999:16). The National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (NCNE) has identified eight characteristics associated with the House of Umoja’s success (National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, 1999): ◆ A family-centered organization that acts as youth’s primary human support system and is based on a participatory model of decision making. ◆ A process of socialization in which at-risk youth develop strong, healthy identities and may even earn the name Fattah, after the House of Umoja’s initiators. ◆ The Adella, a mechanism for conflict resolution and problem solving that requires full participation of all members. ◆ Individual learning to organize personal time and space. ◆ An emphasis on the importance of work and a redefinition of the meaning of work associated with virtue. ◆ An emphasis on service to others. ◆ A spiritual or ideological context expressed in common familial rituals. ◆ Leadership training and development.
“Umoja shows how local changes make a global impact.”
NGO News Publication | April 2016
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