By Staff Writer
Voice & Viewpoint

(San Diego) – Fifteen young members of the Village of Promise (VOP) Health Outreach Collective Mentoring Program will provide community service by assisting the San Diego Black Health Associates at the Community Education Conference next Saturday. The purpose of the gathering is to examine how the prevention policies of the Affordable Care Act will benefit African Americans and other communities of color. The forum will be held on Saturday, June 7, 2014, beginning at 9:00 am at the Jacobs Center for Innovation (404 Euclid Avenue, San Diego, CA).

The mission of VOP Collective Mentoring Program is to break the cycle of incarceration and inspire hope in the lives of children who have been impacted by the incarceration of a parent. To positively impact the daily lives of these children, VOP uses a “collective mentoring” concept or “Village Model”, instead of a one-to-one mentoring approach. The children, or “Villagers”, are supported during a very challenging time in their growth and development, by competent and caring facilitators, who offer age-appropriate, structured activities in a nurturing environment. San Diego Black Health Associates, in partnership with VOP, is exposing the youth to the importance of prevention and early diagnosis in the treatment and management of health problems.

Denise Adams-Simms, Executive Director of SDBHA and an Ex-Offico Board Member to VOP noted, “Providing support to these young people is a real thrill. By working together, VOP is able to expose the Villagers to additional community offerings and resources”. The village was able to arrange a site visit and tour of the San Diego International Airport. “It was exciting to see the Villagers’ reactions as they learned the inner workings of the airport. One of our hopes is to inspire these young people to embrace educational and employment opportunities. In fact, one of the Villagers, Eileen, is job hunting and said she is planning to send her resume to one of the airport employers, because she would “love” to work at Lindbergh Field”.

Jay Bass, the Manager of Ground Transportation for the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority commented, “It was a pleasure to share the airport experience with a group of young people who are committed to excellence and learning to work through whatever adversities their own family history might present. Their questions were insightful and reflected a keen sense of themselves moving into new careers and society”.

The VOP Health Outreach organization has existed in San Diego since 2003, when Carmen Samuels, R.N., with a small group of physicians, health educators, nurses, advocates organized a volunteer effort that focused on the mental health needs of children and adults in Southeastern San Diego. “We started as a ministry of Christian Fellowship United Church of Christ,” explained Mrs. Samuels “and in 2007, Village of Promise Health Outreach became a community-based organization.”

In 2010, VOP Health Outreach launched a Collective Mentoring Program. “We recognized a great need in the community when we discovered that a child who has a parent incarcerated is seven-times more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system,” explained Mrs. Samuels.

The VOP target population is youth between the ages of 12-17 who live and/or attend school in Southeastern San Diego, who have at least one parent who is or has been recently incarcerated. The boys and the girls in the program are from multi-ethnic backgrounds, representing African American, White, Hispanic and Asian American families.

San Diego Black Health Associates, Inc. (SDBHA) is a non-profit organization of African American public health professionals and community advocates working to eliminate health disparities in San Diego County. For further information call SDBHA at (619) 906-4002 or write us at info@sdbha.org