Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice

YMPJ on the Bronx River

Today I had an incredible opportunity to visit and learn about Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice – a nonprofit organization famous for its outstanding service for communities in the Bronx, empowering youth through education programs, and bringing hope of building thriving, stronger, and healthier communities near the Bronx River.Alexie Torres-Fleming is a founder and executive director of YMPJ. She was born and grew up in the South Bronx. She has strong leadership, charisma, and love for this community where she opened YMPJ in mid 90th, and now this organization inspires many young people to take more active position in community issues.

I visited YMPJ when Gretchen Ferenz (Urban Environment program leader in CCE-NYC) organized a course on Sustainability in Historic Preservation, and one of classes of this course took place in YMPJ. Alexie told a meaningful story about how she grew up in this neighborhood and about different struggles that this community went through, and about impressive programs, including environmental education program, which this organization offer to youth.

One of interesting environmental stories was about the 1.2-long Sheridan Expressway going through this neighborhood. The problem is that this expressway cuts Bronx’s residents from the Bronx River and urban forests along the river, and possibly is one of the main causes of one of the highest rates of asthma. YMPJ initiated public debates about decommission of this expressway, and conducts restoration and education projects on the River.

Today YMPJ (Alexie Torres and Stephen Oliveira) also organized a short trip on the Bronx River. It was the first canoe trip in my life. I can tell now that the Bronx River is a real treasure! We have seen swans, herons, and other wildlife – and this is in the larges American city. What I learned about YMPJ and the Bronx River exceeded all my expectations.

This is the description of YMPJ from the web:

Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (“YMPJ”) works to develop young people for lives dedicated to the promotion of peace and justice. Through our work with youth, we collaboratively strive for the redevelopment of the South Bronx, molding young leaders who will create change for years to come. Our Community Wellness program helps young people understand the importance of physical activity and a healthy diet in the promotion of life-long health. The program also offers a venue for developing better and more equitable access to healthy foods and adequate recreational spaces in the South Bronx. We also work closely with the Bronx River Alliance on the development and activation of Concrete Plant Park, a destination along the Bronx River Greenway.

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