The small town of Bridgeton, New Jersey, hosts a summer camp aimed at teaching children that there are alternatives to violence.
The camp is part of Life Worth Living, a nonprofit founded by John Fuqua after the murder of his 18-year-old nephew in 2008.
“The goal was to teach kids that there are opportunities,” said Fukua. “Your life is worth living.”
Over the past 15 years, Fuqua has worked with nearly 10,000 children to teach them life skills for survival in crime-ridden neighborhoods. About 17% of Bridgeton’s children live below the poverty line.
“Every child is given the opportunity to write their own story, and what we want to do is help them,” Fukua said. , supports everything.”
The camp is a refuge for 14-year-old Zaire Bryant.
“You see people with guns and things like that,” Bryant said. “I don’t like it, so I just run away from it.”
Nationally, firearm injuries are the leading cause of death among children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 880 teenagers have died from firearms so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Thirteen-year-old Jahzeer Thompson began participating in the program two years ago. He said participating in the program was the most exciting thing in his life so far.
“John is a real role model,” Thompson said. “He keeps me out of trouble.”
This non-profit organization offers year-round activities, from sports and music to the arts, to give children purpose and help them set goals for the future.
“I live in a city without recreation centers,” said Fukua. “But we have county jails, state prisons, federal prisons, intermediate facilities.”
Helping kids like Bryant dream big.
“I want them to know that I am proud of them,” Bryant said.