The mission of Join Hands ESL is to build personal relationships and walk in solidarity with children and families of greater East St. Louis as they strive to achieve their full potential and overcome barriers of poverty and racial injustice. We accomplish our mission through our youth programming, education advocacy, mentoring programs and the Ubuntu Center for Peace.
Join Hands ESL was founded in 1990 to serve underprivileged children in East St. Louis. Initially focused solely on the children of East St. Louis through our Girls Club and Boys Club, over the years we have offered a variety of youth programs.
Recognizing, however, that the best way to help the children is to help their parents, in 2004 the mission of Join Hands ESL expanded to include a focus on women and children in our Family Mentoring Program.
In 2006, Join Hands ESL took the next step with our Alternative Education Program; realizing that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, Join Hands committed to provide an opportunity for mothers from our Family Mentoring Program to send their children to quality private schools known for their academic excellence.
In 2016, with the opening of the Ubuntu Center for Peace, we introduced our Dream Path Program. The Dream Path takes what we have learned over the years with our youth programs, Family and Teen Mentoring Programs and our Alternative Education Program and creates a simple pathway out of poverty for the young people of East St. Louis. Relying on relationships, with a focus on education and everyone reaching their full potential, the Dream Path is for anyone who has a dream for their children to succeed in school and graduate from college.
Over the last 30 years, Join Hands has operated out of the homes, offices and cars of more than 400 volunteers, using space offered by community partners as needed. We are excited now, through the generosity of a wonderful donor, to have a home at the Ubuntu Center for Peace. The Ubuntu Center for Peace allows us to offer an oasis for our families, a space where we can truly be in solidarity with the people we serve, supporting them where they are at, standing with them in their needs.
We are a small, grassroots organization, that has simply tried to respond to needs as we find them. We are an organization of people who are trying to respond to the needs we see. Relying primarily on private donations and volunteer power, with our more than 100 currently active volunteers, we do what we can. If you would like to join us, please contact us!
Relationships begin with our youth programming, encouraging positive self- image and self- esteem, and encouraging our young people to stay on the right track, do the right thing and focus on education. Volunteers act as role models and big brothers and big sisters, reflecting the beauty and worth of each child.
THE DREAM PATH
Our Dream Path provides a pathway out of poverty. Consisting of our Family and Teen Mentoring, Alternative Education and Education Advocacy, the focus of the Dream Path is relationships, walking in solidarity with families, helping them overcome the many hurdles that poverty present to a child’s academic success.
THE UBUNTU CENTER FOR PEACE
The Ubuntu Center is a place of peace, love and hospitality, an oasis in the midst of an often-violent area. It is now home to all Join Hands programs, morning coffee, a peace chapel, yoga and meditation. It is a resource for our families and children, and those in the neighborhood, as well as home to our administrative offices.
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