All parents wish for the best for their children. That is why they work really hard to provide for all their needs. Aside from this, they make sure that they shower their children will all the love in the world. Children who grow up in this nurturing environment are fortunate indeed. But what if the children’s parents are not there for their kids? What if they cannot provide for the needs of their children? What if they are not physically, emotionally, and mentally able to nurture their children? What if they are addicted to drugs and alcohol and put their children in danger? What if they are serving their time in prison? What happens to the children especially if there are no relatives to look after them? Who will nurture these children? Do we let them live in the streets? Do we let them stay in an abusive family? Do we let them die of hunger? Of course not. Children deserve to be loved and cared for no matter what. We need to step in and do something about it. That is what THE BRIDGE is here for. We are here to give love and care for the children whose families can no longer provide for their needs. The BRIDGE believes that the future lies on the hands of our children and youth. These are the next generation of leaders of our nation. That is why we should exert all our efforts to provide them with all their needs during this crucial formative stage of their lives. The BRIDGE does not just operate on a needs-based approach. We firmly advocate the rights of children and the youth. Each and every child has the right to life, to grow, to participate in the community they live in, and to be given opportunities to hone and meet their full potential. This is regardless of a child’s race, religion, or gender. The BRIDGE started by meeting some members of the youth sector in Jacksonville. They were able to participate in the planning workshop that took place inside the garage doors in Florida. This spurred an initiative to engage other youth in the community to join them especially those who were from low-income families and those considered at-risk youth. The BRIDGE team helped in facilitating meetings and planning sessions with the youth group. The meetings served as a jump-off point for the organization. The participants of the meetings agreed that they should plan for more activities for the youth and the programs should be holistic. The youth would be given an opportunity to develop their cognitive and leadership skills side from the formation sessions for values, social, and emotional development. Since then, The BRIDGE has grown to serve more at-risk youth and provide them with the tools they need to be successful in life. They are given different opportunities to pursue their passion and interests. They are made to believe in themselves and in their worth. They are given the key to the future.
We interviewed the Program Manager of Bridge, Ms. Roshanda Johnson, and she shares with us her inspiration and challenges as she continues to help shape young minds into future leaders of our nation. Q: What made you choose a career in social work? A: It is a vocation for me. I used to work in an accounting firm, in the corporate world. You could say that I was successful at my field back then and was climbing the corporate ladder. But I guess that was not my destiny. Our company had a Corporate Social Responsibility Program involving the abandoned kids and I was moved by their situation. I kept crying when I was there because I could not bear the thought that they did not have families to shower them with love and affection. I could not sleep at night. That was when I decided to tender my resignation. I started volunteering and studied Social Work at the same time so that I would really know what to do with their cases. Q: Wow! That was a complete change of career path. What were the challenges that you experienced along the way? A: I have been through a lot. It was not that simple. I thought if you just had the willingness to serve these little children, then you would be okay. But it was not like that at all. You cannot make decisions on your own. You have to consider what was good for the whole bunch of kids. There were many times when I felt I wasn’t doing enough and that I was failing them. Then, there’s the operational side of the foundation like how to manage the funds, look for sponsors, link with other groups, and so on. Each day brings with it its own set of challenges but we are able to overcome them day by day.
The future lies in the hands of the youth today. That is why we should do our best to mold them to be the best persons that they can be. We give them all the love and affection that they deserve. We spend quality time with them. There is no better investment than the time we spend with children. We do our best to model good behavior because they look up to us. We put them to school so that they can learn more things about the world and about themselves. We allow them to explore the world little by little so that they can discover new things. Each discovery brings new knowledge. We take good care of their health and protect them from all dangers. We provide a safe environment for them. We allow them to play because play is important to them. We provide for all their needs because they depend on us. We teach them important values in life. They need all these things to give them a fighting chance at life, so that they have the tools that they need to win the important battles that they will face, so that they can stand on their own feet and live a life worth living. This is the ideal scenario – that each child will be provided with all that he or she needs. That each child will grow up within a caring and nurturing environment. That they would be protected from any kind of harm. That they would be free of any disease, illness, pain, and hurts. That they will be loved, cared for, and kept safe at all times. After all, we are raising compassionate and decent human beings. We are raising the next generation of leaders of this country. We are raising the future.
Q: What are your daily observations about the youth here at Bridge? A: They displayed a lot of similarities and contrasts that would define the complexity of this stage of their life. The teenagers were vibrant and bursting with energy. I saw that their actions and characters were influenced by internal and external factors. It was evident that they were developing their individual personalities, seeking their identity and yet also wanting to belong to a social group. They were gaining their independence by not asking directions and finding out things for themselves. They were coming to understand gender, race, and age. Q: What are the challenges that you face while working here at Bridge? A: Being the program director, it is quite a challenge for me to give recommendations about how to improve their physiological, socio-emotional, and cognitive development as each person is unique and has his own set of strengths and needs. I make sure that I get to know the kids very well as each one has a different personality and different set of skills. We want to bring out the best in each of them. We want to put them in a specific course that would suit their interests and abilities so that they can truly shine. Q: Lastly, what is your hope for Bridge and the youth that you work with? A: It is always my hope to see these children become successful in their lives – not just in terms of financial aspect but in terms of finding themselves, their true identity, their purpose, and be able to share their love and talents to the rest of the world. Each one is a precious gem. I consider them as my very own children and as a parent, I want nothing but the best for them.