Posts About Peer to Peer Advocacy

Edwige M. Jean - Vital Village Excellence in Mentorship Award

Keith Arnold
By Keith Arnold

In December 2022, Edwige M. Jean earned the Vital Village Excellence in Mentorship Award for her outstanding dedication to the community and passion for lactation mentorship. 

Edwige is the daughter of Haitian immigrants, born and raised in Dorchester, where she still lives with her 13-year-old son. She has worked in the medical field for many years, mainly in OB-GYN clinical and administrative roles. She has degrees in Natural Science, Sociology, and Maternal Child Health with Human Lactation and aspires to become an IBCLC. Her very own experience led her on this Lactation career path; at a young age, Edwige had her son and decided to breastfeed. The recent generation of women in her family rarely breastfed their children and could not offer her much guidance. Edwige sought professional support but left feeling treated unfairly, however, this did not deter her from breastfeeding. Though she superseded her own breastfeeding goals and expectations, she knew that other people must also have the same experience of struggling with breastfeeding and not getting adequate support and guidance. She did not want others to experience the same marginalization that she felt.

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Unsung Hero Interview: Maria McKnight

Keith Arnold
By Keith Arnold

In December of 2022 Maria McKnight was awarded the Unsung Hero Award for her exceptional service to the Boston community to promote child and family wellbeing. 

Maria McKnight is a Boston native, mother, and former corporate worker turned curator of joy. She had a hobby of making art pieces such as fairy gardens in public parks. This passion grew during the peak of Covid due to having more time stuck inside and a child with severe anxiety who found peace and joy working with his mother to create these nuggets of joy and inspiration for the community. During this time, Maria transitioned to focus full-time on her organization 2 Birds No Stones where she organizes and develops public art installations, education stations, community sensory playdates, healing sessions, and more. Maria has set up mini outdoor yoga studios and violin play stations for locals to come and enjoy, learn, and heal. She has developed wellness trees full of free seed packets with information pamphlets on agriculture, recipes, and SNAP application instructions. She has transformed parks to host community-wide sensory playdates to bring together families with children on the autism spectrum. Where we might see a simple tree stump, Maria sees an opportunity to create something new to bring the community together around her beacons of joy. With her focus on community harmony, collective growth, and drawing people to the outdoors, Maria is using her creative passions and leadership skills to improve the Boston community.

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A Deep Dive: Vital Village’s Service-Learning and Leadership Model

Desiree Hartman
By Desiree Hartman

“Fundamental to the development of a community is the enrichment of the individuals that call it home.”  —Vital Village Member, 2014

Our Network uses a Service Learning and Leadership Model to create opportunities for every community member to advance along a leadership trajectory to build community capacity and engagement. There are five components to the Service Learning and Leadership Model:

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Network Members Lead Another Year in the Village

Desiree Hartman & Josette Williams
By Desiree Hartman & Josette Williams

Every year, Vital Village Network community members nominate an Unsung Hero—an individual who extends themselves beyond expectations in their community or organization as a leader in maximizing child health and well-being. We assemble a committee, we review each nomination, and we celebrate the recipient with the network!

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Community Advocacy: From Knowledge to Action

Kymberly Byrd
By Kymberly Byrd

“[My] spirit, body, and mind have been enlightened.” This quote captures the essence of Community Advocacy: From Knowledge to Action, a course that Vital Village Network piloted at Urban College of Boston in fall 2016. Over two years ago, the network began reflecting on a widespread inequity that exists in our community: community residents devoting hours of their free time to community transformation efforts but receiving no tangible benefits. Though service is an enriching experience, we wanted to identify more meaningful ways to contribute to their long-term personal and professional development. 

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Building a Network of Community Mediators

KT Wiley
By KT Wiley

What does it mean to listen? Too often, we catch the words but not the story, not the underlying meaning. This October, twenty residents came together for the third annual Social Justice Mediation Institute, a 40-hour training led by Leah Wing and Deepika Marya, to learn a new way to listen. 

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Community-led Resilience: Reflections from the Vital Village Network Leadership Summit

Morgan Brockington and Kymberly Byrd
By Morgan Brockington and Kymberly Byrd

In December 2015, the Vital Village Network hosted a 2-day Leadership Summit. Day 1 was an intensive 1/2 day Dynamic Leadership workshop focused on developing leadership skills and building community capacity, and the Day 2 was a full day of presentations, workshops, panel discussions, and breakout sessions led by our community partners (and featuring a keynote address by Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Boston, Dr. Atiya Martin). 

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The Social Justice Mediation Institute: Training Community Members in Conflict Resolution

Emma Livne
By Emma Livne

Last October, Vital Village Network, in collaboration with Medical-Legal Partnership Boston, and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), hosted the second annual Social Justic Mediation Institute (SJMI). Learn more about what distinguishes SJMI from other training models, the strength of our participant class of 2015, and how we collected data to measure program outcomes.

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Digital Storytelling - Better Together

Natanya Behrmann
By Natanya Behrmann

There’s something to be said about the complexity of community exchange. It is often said that it takes a village, but what it is about the village that incites the kind of positive growth and transformations that empower and change lives?

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Parent-Engaged Design Process: Connecting Visions to Goals

Meghna Nandi
By Meghna Nandi

The First Teacher Team, with Dinah Shepherd, founder of First Teacher, Maritza Ortiz Bennett and Nikole Huertas, Parent Leaders at First Teacher, certainly took on this challenge head first. Their progress over the 90-Day Challenge exemplifies how tools from the Leadership Summit can be used to jumpstart and propel the great work our partners are already doing! Read more to learn about how Dinah, Maritza and Nikole engaged parent voices and used Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycles and tracking improvement strategies from the Leadership Summit in their work at First Teacher. The Leadership Summit may have been months ago, but the tools and lessons learned can carry on to the present within the work of our Network!

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