‘Your life is worth living’: Nonprofit gives hope to kids in high-crime town of New Jersey
A steady beat of basketballs fills the air in the small town of Bridgeton, New Jersey, where a summer camp aims to teach kids that there are options other than violence.
The camp is part of the non-profit organization Life Worth Living, created by John Fuqua after his 18-year-old nephew was murdered in 2008.
“The goal was to teach our kids that there are opportunities,” Fuqua said. “Your life is worth living.”
Over the past 15 years, Fuqua has worked with approximately 10,000 children, teaching them life skills to survive in a crime-ridden region. About 17% of Bridgeton’s children live below the poverty line.
“Every child has the opportunity to write their story, and what we want to be is an aid to that,” Fuqua said. “So we provide support for everything from school to mentoring to anything recreational.”
The camp is a refuge for 14-year-old Zaire Bryant.
“I see people with guns and stuff,” Bryant said. “I don’t like it. That’s why I’m walking away from here.”
Nationally, gunshot wounds are the leading cause of death among children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 880 teenagers have died so far this year from guns, according to Gun Violence Archive.
Jahzeer Thompson, 13, started participating in the program two years ago. He said coming to the program is the most exciting thing for him in life right now.
“John is really like a role model,” Thompson said. “He keeps me out of trouble.”
The non-profit organizes activities throughout the year, ranging from sports, to music, to the arts, giving children purpose and helping them set goals for the future. .
“I live in a town where we don’t have a recreation center,” Fuqua said. “But we have a county jail, a state jail, a federal jail and a halfway house.”
It helped kids like Bryant dream big.
“I want them to know I’m going to make them proud,” Bryant said.