4 minute read

Aaliyah's Transformational Journey

Dear Friend of TYM,

If you’ve ever held a magnet, you know the power of its pull. Meet Aaliyah*, a girl so filled with magnetism, she draws people like an unseen magical force. There’s something about her milky brown skin, wide-eyed beauty and virtue that makes a person want to hug her, pick her up, or tickle her like she’s their own child. And she’ll hug back, happily. Yet behind her innocent twelve-year old smile and quick giggle is a strength and resilience that can only be wrought by fire and trial.

Aaliyah’s fire came four years ago when her mother’s mental illness, brought on by a combination of physical problems and adversities, led to the unthinkable: suicide. An innocent little girl was then left destitute, robbed of the person she loved the most in the world and left at the mercy of the state. Thankfully, Mary, Aaliyah’s grandmother, petitioned and was granted custody. Mary stepped up like the poor widow Jesus spoke of in Mark 12:44, “For they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”

Raised in Harlem and the South Bronx, to a fifth grade educated mother, Mary worked her way into UC Berkeley. She is smart, dedicated and resilient. But the guardianship interview made clear just how big this new undertaking would be. How would a woman in her 70’s raise an eight year old child on a fixed income? One day at a time. “I’m in this,” Mary said to herself. And she is. Completely.

Mary knew better than to let herself become isolated. So, along with her sister, she looked around for assistance. One of the places they found help was Today’s Youth Matter (TYM). Mary needed more than a program, she needed a pathway, a support system and people who understood the depth of her granddaughter’s needs. “My sanity is based on the fact that I was able to find TYM,” she says. Aaliyah has been attending TYM camps for four years now. “When she came back from camp, she was really excited...She just liked being with other kids.”, Mary stated. TYM camps are designed to foster each child’s unique social and emotional growth. Last year at camp, the girls were pampered with spa treatments and special womanhood training called, “queenology.”

Aaliyah agrees with Grandma. “I really like camp,” she says. “It’s a good getaway. It’s a really, really big change in my life.” At camp, Aaliyah is popular. You’ll find her being carted around by friends,

snuggling with leaders, and even opening up during cabin time about her hardships. “The leaders were really caring and were always asking me how I was doing.” At camp, there is plenty of fun and adventure, but there are also tears, hugs, sharing and healing. The evolution of TYM camps are tailored for urban youth, immersing them in a community of loving adults who foster each child’s development in the areas of character, leadership and spiritual formation. TYM offers a holistic youth development program designed to launch kids’ faith, boost their self-confidence and build resilience to face life’s challenges.

Aaliyah’s story hits particularly close to home for me. I was also raised by a grandmother, only my “grandmother” wasn’t blood related. She was a wonderful woman who heeded God’s call and turned her own life upside down in order to save the life of a fatherless little boy, born to a 15-year old mother. Like Aaliyah, I was a casualty of circumstances beyond my control. I needed a miracle. Unlike these heroic grandmothers, most of us aren’t called to the extreme of adoption or guardianship. We are asked to do much less; but are still expected to help out of the abundance God has blessed us with. “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.” Deuteronomy 16:17.

Collectively, we can help children like Aaliyah. Many of them are heading into difficult times in life. The days of happily coloring and playing with dolls is coming to an end. Aaliyah is at the pubescent stage and she’s a pretty girl. “She’s getting distracted,” says Mary. “Distracted by hair, makeup, music, iPad, and social media.” Big changes are coming. Before she can achieve her dream of becoming a Forensic Scientist, she must first navigate the pre-adolescent, transitional years where boys start calling, grades start falling and innocence evaporates like steam from Grandma’s kettle. Aaliyah needs an insurgence right now. She needs TYM’s transformational journey to work for her. She needs to consistently be exposed to the love of Christ. She needs you and me to help her. Hundreds of other children like Aaliyah need our help too. Our culture can sometimes treat kids as if they’re worthless, but we know they are the most valuable resource we have. That is why we have set a goal to raise $155,000 to fully fund a high-impact summer camp experience that launches the faith of 200 pre-adolescent kids and 100 high school volunteers. Together, we have an opportunity to reach down, lift a child up and help them realize their potential. Help us help hundreds of other children like Aaliyah. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus on Earth. TYM will show you how. Respond now by using the card below.

Kindest Regards,

Billy Coleman, Executive Director

* An Alias

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