Linking Hearts to Transform Lives
By: Joshua Shoemaker
This summer I have the privilege of serving as a marketing intern at Fihankra Akoma Ntoaso (FAN). I am a rising senior at East Carolina University where I am double majoring in Public Relations and Media Studies. Today I would like to tell you about this amazing organization, my experiences so far, and my objectives for this blog.
As many of you know, FAN is doing amazing work through their after school and summer programs for kids in the DC foster care system. These kids have been separated from their families and are often moved from one foster home to another. They frequently change schools, leave their friends behind and may never experience the security most of us took for granted when we were growing up. FAN is a place where they become part of a community, make friends with others in similar circumstances, and become close to adults who provide stability, mentoring, tutoring, and compassion. It is often the only stable aspect of their lives.
I’ve only been here for a couple weeks but I have already learned more than I thought possible. First, I have been very fortunate to spend time working closely with FAN’s co-founder and executive director, Nia West-Bey. It’s hard to put into words just how humbling this has been for me. She handles all aspects of running a highly effective and efficient non-profit with very limited resources. Her only motivation is to improve the lives of children in the foster care system and she demonstrates tireless energy every day. The volunteers and staff all feed off of her passion and commitment and this enables FAN to accomplish great things. Nia is a remarkable person who is changing the lives of so many kids.
On my first day here, Nia asked me to join her at a high school graduation for Brittani, a young lady who has been participating in FAN since she was 11. Nia said that attending these ceremonies is one of her favorite aspects of the job. The percentage of FAN kids who graduate from high school is more than double the graduation rate among DC foster care teens overall. Nia’s pride in Brittini’s accomplishments was contagious and I was overwhelmed. It was heartwarming to hear Brittini attribute her success to Nia, FAN, and all the support she received through this program. Brittini will be attending the University of DC in the fall to study nursing.
Wednesday, June 18th was a major fundraising day for non-profit organizations throughout the DC metropolitan area called “Do More 24.” Although we did not reach our goal, we did receive many generous donations and are grateful for each donation. The donations will help fund the summer after school programs and enable us to help build confidence, skills, and a sense of community for DC foster care youth.
My goal is to write ongoing messages throughout the summer so I can share my experiences as I learn more about FAN and get to know the kids. I hope to introduce you to a different child each week so you can learn their stories and see how the support and consistency that FAN provides is changing their lives and helping them prepare for successful futures. Finally, I would like to involve you in this very important work. I hope that you will provide comments in which you offer your insights, suggestions, fund-raising ideas, and perhaps even your time. Through your comments, we can become a community that works together to serve these deserving kids.
Together we can change lives.