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Transforming the Lives of At-Risk Youth

Resource type: Grantee Story

The Brotherhood/Sisterhood of Bermuda is more than an organisation – it is a way of life. The programme is an emerging, grassroots initiative that provides youth with the opportunity to explore their ideas, identity and future among peers, with the support and guidance from elders.

In 2008, a Brotherhood programme was piloted at the Whitney Middle School for youth aged 11-18, who are often at risk and live in poverty. Over six weeks, Executive Director Bill Trott and Jose Lora engaged as Chapter Leaders with more than 600 students during lunchtime. After building relationships and trust with a core group of students, they launched an afterschool programme providing mentoring, leadership development, academic tutoring, community service and youth-organising activities. Together, the “brothers” and chapter leaders worked on homework, played football, and discussed current events, relationships and the responsibilities that come with being a young man, friend, family member, community member and leader.

By building deep relationships with the “brothers” and their families and by developing a unique partnership with school administrators, who allowed the programme to operate within the building and have now committed an office space for the programme, the Brotherhood has integrated uniquely into all aspects of these young men’s lives.

This programme can have a transformative effect in Bermuda and elsewhere. Mr. Trott recalls one particular “brother” who regularly sought improper attention, got into trouble and was mistreated by peers. A year later, he grew tremendously in self-esteem and demeanor. His mother is “blown away” and attributes his development to being a part of the Brotherhood. “As this young ‘brother’ moves through adolescence into manhood,” Mr. Trott says, “We can see him move from the troublesome behaviour to which he’d been accustomed toward a more positive attitude that leads him to seek knowledge and understanding.

“With this new knowledge and understanding, we expect members to take responsibility for their own behaviours and to begin to influence others. They become the voices of youth in need,” he says.

The Brotherhood is a testament to how a small Atlantic investment can make a huge difference. The programme will be replicated in other schools in 2009 and 2010, and a Sisterhood programme will be launched in the future.

This young programme has real potential to transform youth’s lives. Chapter Leaders are available 24/7 to mentor, advise, tutor and engage with participating youth, many of whom are disenfranchised and at-risk.

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