Homegrown Resilience

Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Red Hook residents lived with no heat, power or running water for weeks in the storm’s aftermath. In response to the devastation, Red Hook Initiative (RHI) opened its doors 14 hours a day for 24 consecutive days. Community members walked across the street to RHI and transformed from storm victims to storm responders. They were first on the scene and knew what their neighbors needed better than anyone.

Five years later, Red Hook is a stronger and more resilient community. Using the lessons learned in Hurricane Sandy’s wake, RHI launched Local Leaders, a training program designed for public housing residents to learn about emergency preparedness and community organizing. The program, facilitated by Local Leader graduates in English and Spanish, has trained over 200 Red Hook public housing residents. In the last five years, Local Leaders have highlighted the impact of mold in public housing, fought proposed budget cuts to NYCHA, and advocated for Red Hook at the community and city-wide levels.

“We’re ready if there’s another hurricane. This program has united the community and made us more aware of what to do to help ourselves, our families and our neighbors,” says Yolanda Diaz, a Local Leader and Red Hook resident. Today, we are proud to introduce you to the heroic residents preparing for future challenges.

Do you remember your first summer job? Perhaps it was the initial step that led to your current profession. Maybe it taught you what you did not want to do for a career! For most of us, in one way or another, the experience played a significant role in our evolution toward maturity and independence.

For Red Hook Initiative (RHI) youth, summer employment opportunities are critical. Noemi is an RHI College Scholar, and for over ten years, RHI has supported her academic, professional, and personal goals. As a rising junior at the University of Albany, Noemi’s major is Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. “I am passionate about criminal justice reform within New York City and about addressing police and community relations on both a local and national scale,” Noemi asserted. This summer, driven by her studies, Noemi will pursue an internship in the Criminal Justice field as a Legal Intern at the office of Public Advocate for the City of New York. Noemi’s placement this summer will not only allow her to start school in the fall with newly acquired skills in her major, but will also allow her to pay for much-needed living and educational expenses.

Of the 120 Red Hook youth we plan to place in jobs this summer, some will be under our own roof conducting research on violence in Red Hook, building and maintaining our free WIFI network or educating their peers. Others will be working in the broader Brooklyn community developing tech skills with a private company, learning through an internship at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, or working with a Red Hook business. 

This summer RHI is committed to ensuring that Red Hook youth have such an opportunity. Will you help us reach this goal? Your support will ensure that Noemi and over one hundred of her peers have an exciting, enriching, and meaningful summer learning opportunity while being able to earn their own income.

Celebrating the Power of Democracy

If you’re looking for Chicko, he can most likely be found canvassing ideas, collecting votes, serving on an Advisory Committee, or educating community members – all for Participatory Budgeting in Red Hook, Brooklyn. 
After moving to Red Hook from Miami three years ago, Chicko found himself coming to Red Hook Initiative (RHI) daily. As a high school student in RHI’s Youth Leaders program, Chicko joined the Youth Organizers group and emerged as a leader of Participating Budgeting in his community. He felt empowered by the ability to spark and effect positive change in Red Hook, all the while working alongside District 38’s Council Member Carlos Menchaca.
With support from RHI’s staff, Chicko recently earned his high school diploma, and assumed a new role as Co-Facilitator for the RHI Youth Organizers, a group of 10 high school youth leading the PB process in Red Hook. He sees himself beginning college in the fall with the goal of majoring in psychology.
Chicko views himself as an, “expert on Participatory Budgeting.” Even though RHI collected more votes than any other site in Red Hook last year, Chicko and his group ambitiously want to increase this year’s goal to 850. Hear from Chicko and his fellow Youth Organizers and find out if they reached their goal at the Particiaptory Budgeting Project’s NYC PBParty Benefit on April 20th, 6-9:30 pm at BRIC BRIC (647 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217). Chicko will be accepting the Community Activist Award on behalf of RHI at the PBParty. Join RHI and Chicko to celebrate PB and all those who make it possible. Tickets are still available, buy your ticket today!