Laurel Parker West joined the Baby Buggy team as Program Director in December 2012 and attended her first site visit on Saturday, December 15th at the Forest Hills, Queens campus of our Forestdale site. She participated in the Stepping Up graduation ceremony for over 30 fathers from diverse backgrounds and then celebrated with the fathers and their children at a holiday lunch that included food, conversation, singing, and a visit from Santa who distributed new toys to the children. She wanted to share her experience with you, our global giving supporters, so you can see just how important it is to provide needed supplies to the innovative Fatherhood initiative at this site in Queens, as well as to our programs across New York and in Los Angeles.
On the Saturday morning after the heart-breaking tragedy in Newton, Connecticut, the attendees at the Forestdale Fathering Initiative Stepping Up celebration all hugged their children a little tighter. As program staff congratulated the 30 fathers on their successful completion of the intensive 12-week program (including parenting and relationship skill development, job and education counseling, and anger management courses), they reminded us all about how precious our children are and what an important role fathers have in their lives.
The fathers at the graduation come from very diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and arrived at the program with different challenges. Some had been referred due to domestic violence incidents and others through the family courts. What was so striking about watching the group, was the strength of the friendships that had been formed between men from completely different walks of life who now share a common commitment to being engaged and loving fathers.
Near the end of the program, after both the staff and participants shared how much the Baby Buggy donations meant to them and their children, a few of the fathers spoke to the crowd about how this program had changed their lives. One father, Zyman, candidly shared in a thick Eastern European accent that as a recent immigrant to New York, he had come from a culture and a family that tended to view women more as property than as people. Through this program, he shared, he not only learned to be a better father, but to be a better husband and that his wife is his equal. A participant in the young fathers program, Dashon, also got up to speak and shared how this program has helped him to be a hands-on father to his son even though his own father had never been a part of his life—he felt empowered to break this cycle.
Hope you enjoy the photos from this graduation celebration where father and their children could truly celebrate the bonds they are building and strengthening. We thought you would also enjoy seeing the "Daddy's Promise" pledge that is part of this program too...a promise that all parents work hard to uphold. Thank you so much for your ongoing support of our fatherhood programs!