New Parents Find Support Through SafeCare

Dayshawn Noble plays with her son, Dru, using strategies she learned in CAMBA’s SafeCare program.

SafeCare is about telling you that you’re good, you’ve got this.

-Dayshawn Noble, SafeCare participant

Throughout March, which is Women’s History Month, we have reflected on the value and promise that each woman holds. CAMBA takes pride in being able to provide support to all women, in the diversity of their roles and identities, including single moms like Ms. Noble.

Ms. Noble grew up in the Bronx and was excelling in her job as a retail manager when she unexpectedly became pregnant. She was forced to leave her job after having her child because she couldn’t afford childcare. Though Ms. Noble was terrified of being homeless, without an income to support herself and her son Dru, she ended up entering the shelter system with him when he was a toddler. Ms. Noble found herself in a dark place in her life where she felt lost, unsure of who she was and helpless in figuring out how to make a better life for herself and Dru.

Fortunately, while at CAMBA’s Flagstone Family Shelter, Ms. Noble joined the SafeCare program, a program that provides one-on-one parent support in developing healthy parenting habits that maintain child safety and encourage parent-child bonding.

Ms. Noble was skeptical: “Would they tell me I am a bad mom? Is this really the help I need right now?” But once she gave it a chance, she found that the program did more than just give her the tools and strategies to manage toddler behavior. “It helps you feel like you aren’t just a mother; you’re a person,” she says. She gained a friend in her SafeCare case manager, Ms. Addie (Adebukola Adeniyi), who helped her see that the same coping strategies she used as a parent could also help her as a breadwinner.

Once you master one thing (parenting), you can master it all.

-Adebukola Adeniyi, SafeCare case manager

Through the SafeCare program Ms. Noble learned to do things that made their home safer for Dru, such as keeping harmful chemicals out of his reach. Ms. Noble also learned to use positive discipline, rewarding Dru’s good behavior with things like stickers and hugs, instead of focusing attention on misbehavior. She learned to plan activities and give Dru the opportunity to feel empowered through choices, like blocks or puzzles. In turn, Ms. Noble found that she was feeling more empowered herself; planning her day turned into planning for the next few years, researching GED programs and getting part-time jobs that fit with her child care.

As Ms. Addie says, “Once you master one thing (parenting), you can master it all.” This rings true for Ms. Noble, who has since moved into permanent housing and plans to earn her GED by the end of this year, exercising control over her life.

Ms. Noble knows that there are other women in similar situations who could benefit from the support that SafeCare offers. She emphasizes the fact that “SafeCare is about telling you that you’re good, you’ve got this” in every area of life.

Learn more about how CAMBA’s 2020 Vision Campaign prevents homelessness by helping people develop the skills they need to lead independent, productive lives on our 40th Anniversary website.

Interrupting Violence in Brooklyn

…it was either I was gonna kill, or be killed

Zayquan Daniels spends his days walking the streets of Crown Heights, Brooklyn looking for trouble. But when he finds it, he doesn’t join in: he works to resolve it. Zayquan is a Violence Interrupter, doing same work that kept him safe as a participant in CAMBA’s Brownsville In Violence Out (BIVO) program, which works to reduce gun and gang violence in Brownsville.

Zayquan grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, a neighborhood where he says the environment of violence pulls young people into seemingly inevitable actions, like joining a gang, or escalating tense situations into violent outcomes. Before receiving help from BIVO, Zayquan was stabbed, watched his younger brother get shot, lost good friends and came to the conclusion that “it was either I was gonna kill, or be killed.”

Fortunately, Zayquan met Anthony Newerls, Program Manager of Brownsville In Violence Out, and  found alternatives to the violent lifestyle he had become accustomed to as a young adult. He worked to make changes in his own life. The sincerity of his transformation qualified him to become a “Violence Interrupter” (a community member formerly involved in gang or violent activity who is hired to intervene in conflicts brewing in the neighborhood) for the BIVO program and later with Save Our Streets (S.O.S.) in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

In fact, since BIVO implemented the Cure Violence model in the 73rd Precinct in 2015, shooting incidents decreased by 25% compared to the about 10% citywide reduction.

Both S.O.S. and BIVO are programs based on the Cure Violence model of violence reduction that treats violence as a public health issue. The success of the model is attributed to the Violence Interrupters like Zayquan who says that once young people see that the cool people are promoting peace and conflict resolution, they want to do it as well. Zayquan knew a Violence Interrupter in Brownsville whom he trusted as a family friend and this kind of referral to the program made him more open to it, he said.

Once the Violence Interrupters are able to reach young people at risk of violence, the program provides them with an array of support services from employment assistance to therapeutic support, and offers school conflict mediation through supporting service providers. Zayquan says it was the summer job he got through BIVO’s Anti-Gun Violence Sumer Youth Internship Program (AGVSYEP) that made all the difference for him.

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Zayquan (third from left) works with BIVO as a “Violence Interrupter.”

New York City generally has seen a reduction in crime, but the results in areas where Cure Violence has been implemented have been astounding. The model is credited with reducing stabbing and gun injuries faster than traditional methods. In fact, since BIVO implemented the Cure Violence model in the 73rd Precinct in 2015, shooting incidents decreased by 25% compared to the about 10% citywide reduction.

Zayquan loves his work because he has the opportunity to give back to the community, and be the example for young people that other Violence Interrupters were for him. He says he enjoys being an example for his younger siblings and for other young people in the area, “letting them know that I’m preserving a positive message.”

Learn more about CAMBA’s efforts to reduce young people’s exposure to violence through programs that empower them to be the change agents in their communities. Join us as we pursue our 2020 Vision campaign and help 1,000 at- risk youth get to college in the next 4 years.


Data2Go Helps Students Graduate On Time

What makes it so hard for students in central Brooklyn to graduate high school and go on to college? Where some may have pointed to statistics that focus on failing schools and overworked teachers, students know that the picture is much bigger than that.

With the help of Data2Go*, students from CAMBA’s Collegiate Express program answered this question in a creative way.

Using Data2Go, a database that makes city data easily accessible, high school seniors Faina Bell Simon, Elmasalami Siddig, Jean Thomas and Rose Seneus produced a short video that powerfully illustrated the drop-out crisis’s real-life complications that make graduating high school more than just a problem of low grades. Their video ends on a hopeful note as they point to the resources that are helping them get #Outin4Years.

Through this partnership with Data2Go, CAMBA has also been able to more accurately identify the areas of the city where some New Yorkers are most vulnerable to the threat of homelessness.

The information gathered has been a vital resource in CAMBA’s preparation to expand homelessness prevention services to Staten Island neighborhoods that could benefit the most.

Find out more about our 2020 Vision and our work to prevent homelessness on our 40th Anniversary website.

*Data used for this project are available on DATA2GO.NYC, a free, online mapping and visualization tool with 360 indicators on human need and well-being in NYC.

Community Links: Catching Up With Julia Beardwood


Julia (center) with partners Sarah Williams and Ryan Lynch

Julia Beardwood is founder and owner of Beardwood&Co., a branding and design firm located in Soho, New York. Julia was a winner of EY’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women award in 2013, recognizing high-growth women-owned businesses. She lives with her husband in Park Slope and has been a CAMBA board member since 2008, after first discovering CAMBA as a volunteer with Taproot in 2005.

It is inspiring to me how much of an impact CAMBA makes and that’s why I tell everyone I know about CAMBA and encourage them to get involved.

How did you get to start your own company and what do you do?  

I worked in branding and advertising for large agencies for over twenty years before starting my company in 2004. I’d always dreamed of having my own business and had built up a strong network of contacts to work with, either as clients or colleagues. I’m a brand strategist, which means I develop plans for organizations that want to strengthen existing brands or create new ones. After starting out solo, our team has expanded to 15 designers, strategists, and project managers.

What inspired you to do pro bono projects with Taproot?  

I wanted to get more involved in my community and use my skills to help a worthy cause. Taproot connects volunteer strategists and designers to help a non-profit with a project they couldn’t otherwise afford. They placed me on a team to help CAMBA with their brand strategy, logo and tag line. I live across Prospect Park from CAMBA’s head office and was amazed to discover such a far-reaching organization existed so close to home – and I’d never even heard of CAMBA.

I love the way the logo looks like an optimistic sun symbol from afar, yet close up you can see it represents a community of people.

What was the creative process to developing CAMBA’s brand?  

It was quite rigorous and included a lot of input from CAMBA staff, board and donors. We started with workshops with over fifty CAMBA staff that led to the strategy that “CAMBA connects people with opportunities to improve their own lives.” Next we generated a lot of tagline ideas and the one that really stood out was “CAMBA – Where You Can.” The final piece was the logo design by Joe Marianek, another Taproot volunteer and an amazing designer. I love the way the logo looks like an optimistic sun symbol from afar, yet close up you can see it represents a community of people.


Which CAMBA project was your favorite and why?

The You Can Van project was my favorite and where Joe Marianek was again the designer. The whole concept of the mobile van to prevent homelessness highlights CAMBA’s innovative approach to solving problems. People at risk of eviction often don’t know where to go for help, so by placing the van right outside high risk buildings, CAMBA puts homeless prevention in front of those who need it most. It was fun to come up with the You Can Van concept and made me proud to see it featured in FAST COMPANY.



Julia Beardwood (second from left) and her team at Beardwood&Co.

How has CAMBA’s programs influenced or inspired your life?

CAMBA has made me deeply aware of the scale of challenges faced by many New Yorkers and the remarkable commitment and capability of the CAMBA staff. It is inspiring to me how much of an impact CAMBA makes and that’s why I tell everyone I know about CAMBA and encourage them to get involved. My co-workers love to buy gifts for kids in CAMBA shelters each holiday season. It makes us feel more connected to our community.

Taking a New Stance on Afterschool Programs


Last fall, Earl Whitfield introduced students at Beacon 166 to the prospect of an afterschool program in fencing. Their immediate reactions weren’t exactly enthusiastic.

“They were referencing Game of Thrones, and whatnot,” the school’s Program Director said with a laugh. “And they wanted to play the sports they were used to.”

It was this assumption, that only football and basketball would be appealing to young people living in East New York, that Earl was determined to challenge. And while many of the students hadn’t heard of the art of fencing before being introduced to the Beacon program, Earl worked with a fencing instructor from New Amsterdam Fencing Academy to explain the ins and outs of the sport to them.

“I broke down that it’s about discipline and skill, and respecting your opponent. It’s really about being a better person,” he said.

Program Director at Beacon 166: Earl Whitfield

Program Director at Beacon 166: Earl Whitfield

The term went on and the students became increasingly enthusiastic – and a transformation occurred. Fencing, Earl said, is about more than balance, speed and agility; deeper life lessons were registering as students discovered the importance of being honorable competitors, and much more.

The program is also “incentive-based”; in other words, students have to perform well in school throughout the week in order to take part in Friday’s fencing class. Earl reports seeing general behavior improvements in all of the program participants as students supervise themselves, and their classmates, in order to ensure that they will have someone to pair up with when it’s time for fencing class. It’s the best possible form of peer pressure, Earl joked, because as a result, students encourage good behavior in each other.

As African American History Month drew to a close, Earl reflected on this exciting, fledgling program’s connection to Beacon 166’s community. Believe it or not, Earl said, a less well-known sport like fencing can bring incredible opportunities – scholarships, awards, a path to college — for minority students from disadvantaged neighborhoods. “Our community is a low-income one, and predominantly African American. There is this preconception that the only way to escape your circumstance is through basketball and football,” Earl said.

“We want to expose our students to other possibilities. We want to expose them to other success stories. Not everyone is 6-foot-5; some of our students are artists, some are inventors. Our job is to cultivate the gifts and skills they already have.” Therefore, Beacon 166 is bringing in robotics programs, a Girls Who Code, along with a music studio project, which will allow the students to write and record their own music.

CAMBA salutes the work of its Education and Youth Development teams to provide greater possibilities for its students in African American communities in Brooklyn, and beyond. We also send a very special shout-out to this program’s Vice President, Wesner J. Pierre (pictured below), who was awarded a PASEsetter Award from the Partnership for After School Education (PASE).

VP of Education & Youth Development, Wesner J. Pierre; Winner of 2017 PASEsetter Award

VP of Education & Youth Development, Wesner J. Pierre; Winner of 2017 PASEsetter Award

Wesner and Earl provide inspirational examples of the work we do at CAMBA, particularly in keeping with our reflections on African American History Month and our 2020 Vision for a more inclusive NYC. We look forward to sharing more of these inspirational stories throughout the coming year.

Welcome to CAMBA Voice!

A welcome from CAMBA founder, President and CEO, Joanne M. Oplustil:

1977 was a turbulent period in New York City’s history: A financial crisis had decimated city services and jobs, a black out provoked rioting and looting and the Bronx was infamously burning. But out of those challenges rose community leaders who were an equally strong force for good. In struggling communities like Flatbush, deeply committed people joined together, pooling their energy and determination to bring about positive changes.

The Church Avenue Merchants Block Association — now CAMBA — started out as a small block association, trying help merchants manage the disinvestment and seismic demographic shifts of the era. We listened to our neighbors and worked with the City to find solutions to our community’s toughest challenges. As we added new programs and responded to emerging needs, we kept our vision of a community where anyone could thrive and everyone was welcome.

Neighborhood needs have changed dramatically since we first opened our doors, but CAMBA’s commitment remains steadfast and our ever-evolving programs and services have progressed with the times. We’ve grown from a small block association to a citywide juggernaut of cutting-edge human services and housing developments. We’ve helped New Yorkers build and sustain vibrant neighborhoods with services that lay the groundwork for economic stability, educational fulfillment, strong families and a healthy life.

2017 is also a significant year for CAMBA as we embark on a yearlong celebration of our 40th Anniversary. We will be looking back on our past achievements and reporting on the lives of people we’ve served. At the same time, we will be looking ahead to the future and preparing for the next four decades.

Our 40th Anniversary Campaign theme is 2020 Vision: Building an Inclusive New York City.

The campaign includes a $4 million fundraising initiative to strengthen CAMBA’s ability to address some of today’s — and tomorrow’s — most pressing needs:

  • Building Ladders to Success by enhancing academic success and supporting college preparation;
  • Constructing Stable Foundations by building and preserving more affordable and supportive housing;
  • Protecting Against Homelessness by expanding critical services that help keep low-income New Yorkers in their homes and out of shelters.

Welcome to CAMBA Voice, our new blog, which will help tell the story of CAMBA – examining our past, celebrating today and building for the future of New York City.

We hope you will join us in this journey into the future. Read CAMBA Voice, share it with your network, contribute your thoughts and comments and be an active member of the CAMBA community, both on and offline.

Together, we can fulfill our 2020 Vision and build a truly inclusive city, employing tangible solutions that support diverse communities where New Yorkers — regardless of their Zip Codes — have the resources and supports they need to reach their full potential.