I used to think I understood what made Youth Villages great. My family has long been involved with their cause, helping to raise money through an annual 5K run. Through Youth Villages, my mother mentored a girl whose family had abandoned her.
But it wasn't until I worked with Youth Villages recently, as an adult, that I understood the scope of what they do. There are a lot of nonprofits who help children. Even some that help with the kinds of issues that troubled children face. But no group I've ever worked with changes lives the WAY that Youth Villages does.
By choosing to serve "the kids that no one else will take on", CEO Pat Lawler immediately distinguished himself and his organization as one that that believes, wholeheartedly, that no child is a lost cause. But to then go even further and rigorously test the outcomes of their kids even 2 years after helping them is astounding. This pioneering commitment to data-driven research in this field is evident in every single employee I encountered at Youth Villages. They truly believe in the idea that "whatever it takes... is the only thing that really works." You see it in the way their caseworkers truly care about these children and their families. You see it in the countless hours they work. You see it in the faces of kids who have never had someone in their life that cares about them as much as Youth Villages' people do.
Working with Youth Villages as an advisor taught me so much about them, but it also taught me even more about myself. It's easy to be cynical. It's much harder to believe in the potential of a kid who has been through more trauma and abuse than most adults could ever imagine. But Youth Villages does. And when you see their work in action - when you visit the homes of families in turmoil and see up close what their methods can accomplish - you come away changed. For the better.
I've always been happy with my career. But I've never been as proud of my job as I was when Youth Villages was my client. I will forever be an ardent supporter of this organization, its people and most importantly - the kids and families they help everyday.