“My experience growing up is what happens when violence is prevalent in your community.”

“There is more than one way we suffer,” says Zaire. In her home, Zaire had two sisters, a mother sick with multiple sclerosis, and a grandmother so scared of the violence outside that she didn’t let the girls leave the house. The strictness and isolation was too much for her older sister, who started running away. Zaire stayed, helping care for the household—without any hope or plans of her own.

The one place she was allowed to go was school, and BUILD was there. One day Zaire took home a flier for BUILD’s spring break art program. “Amazingly, my grandma let me go—because it was just for one week,” she says. “That week changed my life.” Immersed in art and surrounded by positive peers, Zaire felt she could let go for the first time. “I discovered my own love for art. I learned art could help me process everything going on at home. And most importantly, I found a safe place. A place that became a door to my own future.”

After this experience, Zaire’s grandmother learned to trust BUILD a little more, and Zaire enrolled in other BUILD programs: BUILDing Girls 2 Women, Youth Council, and after the pandemic hit, individual therapy. Those tools helped her stay focused on her own future, without letting the guilt she felt about leaving home keep her from going to college. As she understands now, “my family only wants the best possible future for me.”

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