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CAMBA Connection December 2012

CAMBA's Own Rake In the Honors


November was a month of recognition in the CAMBA family, with three members receiving well-deserved honors and awards.

Raymone George (above, with Nicole Richie), an 18-year-old CAMBA volunteer, won the "Halo Hit" award at Nickelodeon's nationally televised Halo Awards in Los Angeles. The awards celebrate remarkable young people from across the country who are making a difference in their communities.

A former gang member, George turned his life around and now volunteers at CAMBA's Beacon 269 program, teaching children and teens how to dance. (He leads Colors of Peace, an award-winning step team). George also serves on the Advisory Group for CAMBA's Flatbush Promise Neighborhood Initiative. Read more about his story here.

David Rowe, CAMBA's Assistant Deputy Director for Housing Development, received his own lofty honor last month, when he was named one of the "Enterprise 30th Anniversary Heroes" at Enterprise Community Partners'  gala. Rowe was called a "Next Generation Leader" for his work developing supportive, affordable housing with CAMBA Housing Ventures.

Rounding out the month of honors was Dany Cunningham, CAMBA Security Administrator/Community Affairs, who was feted at the Prospect Park Anniversary Ball. The Prospect Park Alliance awarded Cunningham the James S. T. Stranahan Award for exemplary service to the park. Cunningham serves as chair of the Prospect Park Community Committee, in addition to his roles with CAMBA.

Congratulations to Raymone, David and Dany for their well-deserved recognition!


CAMBA Educates, Celebrates on World AIDS Day


For two hours on a Friday afternoon, the Flatbush Dutch Reform Church played its local part in an international day commemorating the history of HIV and AIDS. Gathered for World AIDS Day, more than 60 community members and CAMBA staff filled the church's main hall to immerse themselves in the subject at hand.

"Today is about those who fought the fight and those who are living with HIV right now," said Geneva Musgrave, CAMBA Program Manager of Anti-Stigma Interventions. "It's a day to celebrate and remember."

Symbolic red balloons filled the hall as the attendees shared a free lunch and enjoyed a formal program, which included educational talks, inspirational spoken word and song, and even a live skit highlighting the danger of HIV-related stigma.

One of the day's performers, a 54-year-old woman named Stephanie, talked about contracting HIV from a blood transfusion in the early 1980s and her long personal journey that followed.

"My self-esteem is so much better today," said Stephanie. "I can honestly say I love myself today."

To end the day's program in a most visible way, the hall emptied as the group brought the red balloons outside and released them into the sky.


Community Gathers for Park Slope Women's Shelter Tree Lighting


It was the kind of scene that can happen only once a year: adults and children standing out in the cold, sipping hot chocolate and apple cider, watching something come alive with light for the holidays.

CAMBA clients, staff and local families came out on an early December evening to enjoy the Park Slope Women's Shelter's 16th Annual Tree Lighting.

The evening opened with welcoming words by PSWS director Faye Merolla and CAMBA Executive Director Joanne Oplustil, and with acknowledgments of appreciation for supporters of the shelter. Then the entertainment began with a performance by the Dzieci Theatre, followed by the tree-lighting and accompanied by the rousing sounds of Dexter Lewis and the Emmaus Pathfinder Drummers.

Special honors were conferred during the program to four people who have given so much to the shelter: Sydelle and Stephen Gansl, dubbed "PSWS Guardian Angels" for their devotion and generosity over the years; and Brooklyn Commune's Chris Scott and Eugenie Woo, who helped bring an organic garden to the shelter's yard and who donated the night's cozy winter refreshments.

A Holiday sing-along closed the evening.


Employee Profile: Faith Igoni

Youth Facilitator, Beacon 269


What’s your role at CAMBA and how long have you worked here (include any past positions)?
I have been at the Beacon for about 5 years now. I still remember my first day. It was September 17, 2007. I walked into the Beacon that summer with my siblings to find so many elementary students in colorful shirts… I immediately wanted to work there. Soon after, I began to teach the photography program as a group leader, which we called "My Eyes, My Community." I created a curriculum that included community awareness, leadership skills, health and, of course, photography. After that, I was allowed to facilitate an unofficial girls’ discussion group, a dance program, then a step program, then a program call "Career Me,” then I began facilitating the Beacon 269 Youth Council program. I joined the Advisory Board and was voted secretary. In 2011, Ms. Regina [Mitchell] brought up the idea of entering the Beacon step and dance participants into a competition. She found out about the Nike Step It Up competition, and I’m the group leader for that. I'm also the advisor of the Leaders of Tomorrow and Youth Council Program, where I teach leadership and engagement as well as career and financial literacy. 
Where did you grow up and how long have you lived in NYC?
I grew up in West Africa. My dad worked for a notable oil company so we moved around a few times. I came to the United States with my mom and siblings in the fall of 2000.
Talk a little about your day-to-day---how do you spend your time?
My day starts off with a prayer. Then I spend time with my mom and siblings, and I'm off to school. Soon after I'm done with my school work, if I have time, I get some lunch and review my lesson plan for the day. Then I head to work, where I start with the middle-school program and, on days when I work late, I teach leadership or Step which caters to young and older participants.

What part of your job do you find most rewarding?
Working directly with the participants; helping to navigate and inspire them to think outside the box, set goals, recover from shortcomings and most of all, helping them achieve the goals they set and/or get rewarded for a job-well-done.

Tell about a memorable work-related experience you’ve had.
I have so many, but they all have similar endings. A participant has a difficult time, and after months of struggling, a breakthrough surfaces. No matter how small the breakthrough, it is so worthwhile and seems to cause a spiral of even bigger accomplishments.

How has your work changed the rest of your life? (Do you have a different perspective outside of work? Do you treat people differently?)
Working at Beacon 269 has granted me the opportunity to interact with diverse individuals, not only diverse based on ethnicity but also based on mindset, outlook and personality. I was confronted with more than a handful of difficult behaviors that allowed me to exercise patience, understanding and authority. These are essential skills and I'm so grateful to have them, and the opportunity to exercise them has allowed me to improve tremendously.

What other profession have you always wanted to try (or what do you plan to do in the future)?
I would love to be a motivational speaker who improves the lives of as many people as possible… who in turn will help other people. I am currently in my last semester with an anticipated degree in psychology with a background for behavioral and occupational therapy, and I am preparing for a doctorate in occupational therapy. So ultimately, I would like to be a therapist with a passion for educating and motivating young people.

What is your favorite spot or thing to do in New York City?
My favorite spot is Brooklyn Bridge Park, after sunset during the summertime. I enjoy buying ice cream or frozen yogurt and relaxing with a loved one under the bridge. I also enjoy cycling to the pier near Ikea -- its light is beautiful after sunset. My favorite meals are at Pho 32, Village Yogurt, China Tokyo, Pho Pho, Mango and Negril Village.

If an actor/actress were to play you in a movie, who would it be and why?
A young Oprah because she is passionate about what she does and charitable.

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