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Through the Years: 1998-2024

Peace4Kids: 25 years supporting youth in foster care

25 years and counting! When we founded Peace4Kids, we never imagined how we would grow and flourish. An idea that started out as a small garden project has evolved into a community impacting thousands.

In honor of our anniversary, our 25th logo includes symbols that represent milestones, breakthroughs, and safe spaces we have co-created with our youth. 

We're looking forward to journeying back in time with you, from today to 1998, and sharing the profound insights we have gained. For some of you, the symbols may be familiar, but for others, we are excited to share their meaning and why they are special.


Peace4Kids: Finding Home

Published 2nd Children's Book

Written and illustrated by Mir Cortez-Cáceres. Discover Nani's journey, a shooting star seeking safety and affection after being cast out from Jupiter's ring. Despite many challenges, Nani's determination guides her. Mir's symbolism highlights foster care struggles, but through resilience, Nani finds her gifts lead to greatness. This heartwarming tale inspires all ages to embrace uniqueness and pursue dreams. Purchase your copy today!

Peace4Kids: Finding Home

Finding Home

In September 2023, we purchased 20.02 acres of land in Agua Dulce! The pandemic was challenging for everyone, but especially for our children. Our model is always evolving to meet the needs of those we serve. To support our community, we're building a nature retreat center that promotes mindfulness, healing, and collaboration. We will use the arts, physical exercise, cathartic activities, and mindfulness practices to create a space that is restorative.

 

Peace4Kids + Mindful Leaders

Heart Centered Educator's Certification

In partnership with Dr. Niki Elliot, over 30 community members have been certified as Heart Centered Educators. We collaborated to customize a program focused on self-regulation techniques and training others to support children impacted by trauma. Our Heart Centered Educators train social workers and caregivers, educators and others. Above all, they're eager to support the healing of others who have experienced foster care.

 

The Pointless Forest

Published 1st Children's Book

Each of us has unique gifts that can make a positive impact. In 2021, we published our first children's book, The Pointless Forest. Pointlexia, the pencil, learns how her differences enable her to recolor her world. This book highlights foster care in an engaging way so that grade school teachers can talk about it with their students from a place of strength. Our lineup will expand in 2024!

 

Peace4Kids + ROCMove

Founded ROCMove

ROCMove [Revolution of Care Movement] is a group of intergenerational leaders with firsthand foster care experience, distinct expertise and direct stakes in creating a healthier culture and experience for young people in care. Our goal is ambitious: to confront media bias and reframe public perception of people with experience in foster care. 🎧 Listen to Our Podcast

 

Peace4Kids Virtual Sunshine

Virtual Sunshine

For the first time in over two decades, we were unable to physically connect with each other during the pandemic. Despite dire circumstances, our youth have taught us a lot about adapting. We tapped into our community and provided food, technology, and life needs funding. In response to our physical distance, we launched "Virtual Sunshine", an online Saturday program that allowed us to connect and heal our hearts.

 

Heart Centered Justice Training

Heart Centered Justice Training

Safe and supportive environments are essential for children who grow up in foster care. Using an anthropological approach, we identified key strengths and behaviors for youth in foster care in terms of personal development, academic achievement, and mental health. Our Heart Centered Justice Training Course has supported hundreds of social workers, educators, and other helping professionals. 

 

Peace4Kids + USC Jovrnalism VR

USC Jovrnalism Collaboration

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is a library of wisdom. We teamed up with USC Annenberg students in an “Advanced Disruption: Innovation with Emerging Technology” journalism class to create immersive stories. Using virtual reality and 360-degree videos, each story reveals our youth's strengths and resilience as they share their insights.

 

Peace4Kids Research

Groundbreaking Research

Our youth wanted to know how the public thought about youth in foster care. So Peace4Kids asked over 5,000 respondents in local and national surveys what they thought. We discovered that the public made some reckless assumptions about youth in care. Through advocacy, speaking engagements, and academic writing, our research team continues to employ these surveys to dispel these myths.

 

Peace4Kids Family Dinners

Family Dinners

Family dinners are magical portals to a world brimming with laughter, music, and boundless joy. Understanding that our youth may not always experience these cherished traditions, our beloved Deirdre Lopilato, affectionately known as "Mama D," began hosting monthly family dinners in 2016 in the warm embrace of her home. Thousands have broken bread together since. 🤍

 

Peace4Kids Pop-Up Library

Free Pop-Up Library

A book can transport us to new places and introduce us to unknown worlds. In 2014, long-time volunteer "Library Lizz" initiated a weekly pop-up library where youth were exposed to diverse literature and stories that inspire hope. We offer free books to all youth as part of our regular program. This ensures literary access, encourages reading at all levels, and creates an environment of exploration and discovery.

 

Peace4Kids Mobile Village Kitchen

The Mobile Village Kitchen

The Mobile Village Kitchen [MVK] is a solution to the missing food legacy for youth in foster care, improving health outcomes and tackling food inequity in South LA. A Peace4Kids' original concept, the Mobile Village Kitchen is a 32' expandable trailer designed by our youth along with architect and former board chair Deborah Richmond. To date, the MVK has served over 10,000 nutrient rich meals.

 

Peace4Kids \"All I Did Was Turn 18" Campaign

Previously, foster care placements for teens ended at 18. When Antony, a Peace4Kids youth, experienced this, his brother Akin decided to act. Akin and friends started Project Homebound and rode their bikes across California to raise public awareness. The "All I Did Was Turn 18" campaign influenced the age at which youth exit foster care to 21 in California and 47 other states.  Akin was awarded the White House Champion of Change Award in 2015 for his leadership.

 

Pea Pod Music & Arts AcademyThe PeaPod Music & Arts Academy

Through Peace4Kids and the Watts Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club, Wil.i.am and the Black-Eyed Peas launched the PeaPod Music and Arts Academy to support our youth's talents. In addition to providing a state-of-the-art music studio, the Academy provided resources and mentorship to young artists and musicians who want to pursue their art with purpose. Music and somatic therapy remain integral to our program.

 

Peace4Kids @ WWBGC

Collocated at the Watts Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club

With more children joining Peace4Kids, 99th Street Elementary School became too small to accommodate our physical needs. The Watts Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club [WWBGC] offered us their site to house our Saturday core programming in response to our need for additional space. By being located next to George Washington Carver Park, we maintained our connection to nature, expand our services, and provide outdoor activities to our youth.

 

Peace4Kids Poetry Team

Peace4Kids Poetry Team

As our teens expressed a desire to be heard, we connected with Brave New Voices and learned spoken word. Through slam poetry, they traveled from coast to coast, lifting their voices. It was through their words that they discovered that their words had power and could shine a light on the uniqueness of the foster care story. Their lessons still influence Peace4Kids, and we continue to sing and celebrate the song they wrote that encapsulates our 4 Core Concepts.

 

Peace4Kids: The Beginning

Collaborative Era Begins

Our magical peace garden inspired others to join us, beginning a long history of collaboration. Palos Verdes Peninsula High School joined our family and shared their resources and talents in sports, art, science, and education. National Charity League provided meals and our annual Beach Day, Chadwick International hosted International Community Days. We have collaborated with dozens of organizations over the years, bringing communities together and building long-lasting friendships.

 

Peace4Kids: The Beginning

Connecting with Nature

Youth play a crucial role in setting our course. A key Peace4Kids philosophy is that our youth are capable, no matter what adversity they've faced. Their desire to see and experience more of the world around them led us to create the conditions. We traveled to the mountains, beaches and Catalina Island. We gained new knowledge, formed stronger ties, and anchored our love of nature and restorative environments.

 

Peace4Kids: Core Concepts

Our Core Concepts

The "PERCs" of Peace4Kids have guided us from the start and continue to inspire self-confidence and awareness. Personal Responsibility: We shape our destinies in a purposeful and reflective way by taking responsibility for ourselves and others. Effective Communication: Serves as our cornerstone for cultivating nurturing connections. Respect: Promotes a culture of mutual understanding and appreciation. Community as Family: Through a responsive, consistent and culturally sensitive community, we cultivate a sense of belonging and permanence.

 

Peace4Kids: The Beginning

30 Seconds of Silence

Meditation has always played a vital role at Peace4Kids. Every program day begins with a hush throughout the community. During these 30 seconds of silence, we quiet our self-talk and listen to our heartbeat. With each breath, bellies rise and fall in unison providing a brief moment of clarity during a mini-reset and meditation. With a countdown of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, the childlike sound returns echoing with joy. Taking care and healing ourselves starts here.

 

Peace4Kids: The Beginning

Our Beginnings

In 1998, Zaid Gayle and Marni Otway founded Peace4Kids as part of a nationwide campaign to promote peace. The students at 99th Street Elementary School invited Peace4Kids to create a garden with them to have a peaceful environment at school. Through gardening, the students learned about the cycle of life and the principles of nonviolence while discovering their strengths and gifts in the process.