"Through creative writing, performance and visual arts, the youth get a rare chance at being the children that they are."
Vincent "Kuroji" Patrick, 31, of Washington, D.C., found his place in the community by providing inner-city youth an artistic respite three days a week.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Vincent: For the past three years I've been working with youth in the Capitol Heights/Sursum Corda area of Washington, D.C., engaging them in enrichment programs and life skills as well as providing outlets for them to be creative (compared to being dormant in an area in which negative values reign as the norm). Through creative writing, performance and visual arts, the youth get a rare chance at being the children that they are instead of being part of the cycle they're forced to live in every day. When inside the community room of the housing complex (which hosts approximately 600 youth ages 5-19), the outside world is the least of our worries, the creative juices flow, and the youth become teachers, all the while escaping their individual scenarios.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Vincent: The name of my organization is All About The Babies I.N.K. (Investing 'N Kids), 1200 North Capitol Street, NW, Washington, D.C.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Vincent: At present, I work with approximately 25 kids, all who actually want to be in the program. Attendance fluctuates, of course, because of family situations. I'm proud to say that I have a direct relationship with each guardian and parent; I'm accessible to them at all times. I also try my best to be in involved with their academic development as well.
What inspired you to get involved?
Vincent: Just knowing that our youth have so much to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Some of them actually run their households. Some just want to express themselves without consequence, and I saw a way for these things to come to fruition.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Vincent: I've been "involved" with youth since I was 11. I started an art class in my old neighborhood because I was tired of drawing for everyone. The director of the center was hesitant at first, but the turnout was memorable, in a good way.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Vincent: Knowing that I'm able to assist not only the youth but also the families that I work with! Also, seeing the way the children react to my presence.
What is/was the hardest part?
Vincent: WOW! The hardest part was the separation of “educator/ facilitator” and “father figure” because most of the youth I work with come from single-parent homes. So, it actually came with the territory!
What was the biggest surprise?
Vincent: The reception from the community overall. It was difficult because the way I dress would stereotypically place me outside of who I am. So, the embrace of the community was a good surprise.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Vincent: I've learned not to judge and although I knew that before, I actually get a chance to exercise it now! I've learned to listen to the “eyes and ears of the community”...the children! They tell from the truest perspective when we adults are influenced by our own vast histories.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Vincent: Make sure this is actually what you WANT to do because the energy that you put out may not come back as rapidly as you'd hope for. In other words, be patient, and your efforts will pay off in the long run!
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