FLINT, MI – Leon El-Alamin wants it to be known that Flint is a community that’s seen trauma on many levels.
As the executive director and founder of M.A.D.E Institute, a nonprofit that helps people returning to society after incarceration and at-risk youth, he’s aware of the impact it can have and why trauma-informed programming is critical.
The city of Flint awarded grants to 11 community partners to help further the mission of Flint ReCAST (Resiliency in Communities after Stress and Trauma), a program designed to promote resilience in the community by supporting families and mitigating the impact of trauma. M.A.D.E Institute is one of them.
“This is huge. Flint is a unique city,” El-Alamin said. “We have been, for many years, the top five for most violent cities, then to have one of the worse man-made disasters, the water crisis, which brought on despair and trauma. We see it in the behavior of our young folks currently in the school system. And then to have COVID on top of another health crisis – this is critical funding and opportunities for those who will be participating in this current cycle through ReCAST, because it deals with specifically trauma.”
Other organizations granted up to $10,000 by the city include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Flint, R.L. Jones Community Outreach Center, Voices for Children Advocacy Center, Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, YMCA of Greater Flint, WOW Outreach, St. Luke’s NEW Life Center, Peckham, the Crim Fitness Foundation and the Ennis Center for Children.
“What ReCAST does is join forces with community organizations, because it’s really important that we invest in Flint, specifically organizations that are meeting the needs of children and families with a focus on those needs being met through a trauma-informed lens,” said Lottie Ferguson, the chair of ReCAST’s community advisory board and the chief resilience officer for the city.
President and founder of the Ennis Center for Children, Bob Ennis, said they were thankful for Flint ReCAST’s support for their Fostering Creativity program, a free therapeutic arts program for youth who have been in foster care or placed out of their homes.
“We started this program with a grant from several different foundations to see if it really worked and to see if it helped to move our children along,” Ennis said. “We had the University of Michigan come in and study it for five years, and we found out that many of our kids, very young, were thinking about suicide and they expressed that through art and some of the art therapy steps that we used.”
ReCAST and the grants awarded are funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The federal grant program was introduced in 2017 with the intent of assisting communities that have recently faced forms of unrest and incorporating trauma-informed practices into their governments and organizations, Ferguson said. Trauma-informed behavioral health services recognize and acknowledge the role of trauma in an individual’s life, and the federal program emphasizes the similar characteristics communities with histories of harm and disruption share. The Flint program is one of several throughout the country.
“Flint is unique in the fact that there are so many people and organizations that really want to help Flint, to help Flint residents. Investing in their sustainability is part of that and that’s part of the goal of ReCAST, but also, meaningful collaboration is the next,” Ferguson said. “We grant funds to organizations who are able to do the work, but we also connect them together. If we can make strategic, meaningful, intentional collaborations across the city, then we can maximize program capacity … and limit some of the gaps in services as we ensure that we’re reaching all of the residents and meeting the needs that they have.”
El-Alamin said their ReCAST grant is going toward M.A.D.E Institute’s EPIK programming, which stands for “empowering people through innovation and knowledge.” The programming uses a trauma-informed approach to help clients who suffer from substance abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence and things of that nature.