Your contributions to Wednesday’s Woman are impactful to many. With your help, we are spreading the word that transformation does happen. If you'd like to add your name to the list of guest bloggers you can let me know via Twitter, email or by mentioning your desire in the comments section following today's feature.
Today, please welcome back Anna Mahler from The Mommy Padawan, a monthly contributor to Wednesday’s Woman. Anna shares my passion for seeking out women who can be highlighted because of their ability to be a catalyst for positive change in the lives of others. Anna also understands that one not always has to look across our borders for opportunities to help. After reading Anna's feature, you'll be inspired to look right outside your front door for that opportunity you've been missing.
Remember to spend some time at The Mommy Padawan. Her space is warm and empowering. Her steadfast mission to end child abuse and bring love and peace to the world inspires. I include her within the ranks of women who have been a catalyst for my own growth and I'm certain she will do the same for you.
by Anna Mahler
|Video Still via CNN|
Diane Latiker is an incredible woman. She is a mother and grandmother who stepped forward in her community, unafraid to help or of being judged. She believes in the potential and good in young people and recognizes the possibilities created by positive change – for the children she helps everyday and the area where they live.
Diane Latiker has lived in Roseland for over 20 years, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago. When her youngest child became a teenager in 2003, Diane was concerned for her daughter. They lived in a violent area, surrounded by drugs and gangs, and there wasn't much for kids to do so Diane started taking her daughter and her friends to safe activities like swimming and to the movies.
Encouraged by her mother about the impact she was having and how much the kids liked and respected her, Diane decided to reach out, not only to her daughters' friends but to all of the kids in their community.
Welcoming them in to her own home, Diane made it known she was providing a safe place for kids to come any time of the day or night for food, help with homework or just to have someone to talk to. She called her program, Kids Off the Block.
Many were just viewed as “bad kids” but once they started coming to Diane, even gang members began opening up about how they wanted more for themselves.
"I invited them into my living room," she said. "They all started saying: 'I want to be a doctor. I want to be a rapper. I want to be a singer.' They didn't want to be out here running up and down the street. They wanted to be involved in something." (CNN)
As Diane began to see the positive impact of her work, she eventually left her day job to dedicate even more time to helping the young people in her area. She set up tutoring with teachers and retired educators, provided job interview skills, opportunities to play sports and even organized field trips.
When surrounded by violence and struggle, it's easy to feel like this is just how life is and there are no other options available. Having the opportunity to see that there are many other places and ways to live, different from what they see everyday on their block, can provide the hope that starts incredible, positive changes for a child in need.
After touring her home and program, donors provided enough funding for Diane to purchase a building and Kids Off the Block opened the doors of its new home on July 15, 2010.
Kids Off The Block is open to children and young people ages 11 to 24, providing alternatives to gangs, drugs and violence through mentoring, tutoring, sports, job readiness skills, GED preparedness and heath and fitness programs to name a few.
They also host annual events like Safe Summer BBQ, Feed A Teen Thanksgiving Day Dinner and Champions for Teens Awards.
To me, this is the ultimate example of living the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”. Diane clearly shows, you don't have to be a biological parent to help a child become happy and successful.
It is also a beautiful example of how we are all connected. By providing hope and alternatives to violence and crime, Diane not only saves children but is creating a safer community and happier, more successful future adults.
Diane Latiker was chosen as a CNN Hero in 2011: