Gamaliel Madelon says what started as a suggestion for anger management counseling following a traffic incident has now turned into a new way of life.
It is something he credits to the nonprofit Fathers' Uplift, based in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood.
Madelon says he was also learning how to be a surrogate father to a family member when he decided to seek out the services the organization has to offer. Nine months later, he couldn't be more thankful. He is currently working on getting a Master of Business Administration and has learned valuable parenting tools at the same time.
CEO Charles Daniels started Fathers' Uplift in 2011. The goal is to provide men looking to overcome racist, emotional and addiction-based barriers with the resources they need to remain engaged with their children.
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"Over 80% of the people that we serve have histories of incarceration, specifically the men, and a majority of them are Black and brown," Daniels said.
He says the first steps to tackling those issues are advocacy, therapy and coaching. The organization offers a variety of therapy programs, mental health initiatives and support systems, helping more than 12,000 fathers and family members to date. Its curriculum also includes courses for those currently incarcerated, and even virtual workshops accessible across the country.
"What we found is that what helps with the recidivism rate is community," said Daniels. "Giving guys partners to keep motivated and stay engaged, giving them a community of people that really care about them."
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"When we come here, all the issues that we're dealing with as far as Black and brown males, it goes away," Madelon said. "This gives me a platform, a platform to basically say what I need to say, and a platform to be able to congregate with my peers."
"A lot of people come with baggage, but we learn how to leave that baggage at the door and move forward," he added.
The group's success is evident in the numbers. Fathers' Uplift touts a 4% recidivism rate, compared to the state's baseline of about 30%.
It is a mission close to Daniels' heart. He says it was inspired by his own relationship with his father. He now hopes to continue changing the lives of more dads and their kids across the state and country moving forward.
"No dad dreams of being absent," Daniels said. "And we want to realize their potential to be available to their children."
The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation is a Boston-based venture philanthropy firm that finds, funds and supports social impact entrepreneurs, including Daniels and his work at Fathers' Uplift. To date, DRK's portfolio of entrepreneurs, like Daniels, have directly impacted 300 million lives.