The following blog post was written by Seth DiSalvo, design director for Current Communications.
Where has all the time gone?
When Current Communications first started our journey with Youth Oasis, we did not realize how exciting and challenging this endeavor would be. Our biggest challenge was similar to the analogy of the needle in the haystack. Current Communications was given the task to make an “invisible” organization “visible” in the Baton Rouge community.
So, where did we start?
Our first leg on this journey involved collecting information about our key publics- which we determined were 30-45 year-old professionals in the Greater Baton Rouge area. We also looked at scientific evidence based on psychology to further understand how our publics responded-or rather how they hadn’t responded- to Youth Oasis and the services that it provided.
Youth Oasis is a children’s shelter that provides a meal, a bed and other essentials needed to survive. However, the more we worked with Youth Oasis, we discovered that what these children really needed was a home. In the typical definition of a home, most understand that food and shelter are a given. What these children need are attention and care.
Rafael de Castro, the executive director of Youth Oasis, shared that food, shelter and other physical items are provided for the children for the most part by the community and the Department of Children and Family Services. What is a constant struggle is being able to find the funds to pay the bills (electricity, water and other building expenses) to keep the shelter open. By no means is the shelter in danger of shutting down, but there is a constant effort from all of the staff at Youth Oasis to apply for grants and other monetary help. These funds help to pay for the social worker and other individuals who help to ensure the children are both physically and mentally healthy. Many of the children at the shelter come from many different circumstances and backgrounds. The children at the shelter face similar challenges that one sees in the real world. In some instances, these children will face more challenges than the average child.
One such example is the challenge of getting these children to school and to get them to understand the importance of it for their future. Due to some of the experiences that these children have had to come to terms with, school comes secondary in their thoughts over simply surviving. A harsh reality for children in any shelter is that the moment that he or she turns 18, he or she is on their own. Therefore, it is crucial that shelters such as Youth Oasis get funding to help shelter and educate children of this reality.
Taking into account all of this, Current Communications knew that it was imperative that we gave a face to Youth Oasis.
Yet another challenge arose.
Due to laws to protect the identity of the children at the shelter, we could not use the names or faces of the children to speak about what Youth Oasis does for the children. All of our tactics and goals had to take this into consideration when raising awareness for the shelter.
As part of our campaign, we planned an event called Family Fest to help reach families who understand the needs of children.
Our event was a success! We had a bouncy house, a reporter from the Advocate, a fire-breather and live bands (The Heaters and Strangers and Light.) play for the event in an effort to raise awareness for Youth Oasis.
It was an amazing moment to witness Rafael de Castro and the pastor of the church shake hands, symbolizing a potential future partnership between the two organizations.
This gesture, the shaking of hands, sums up how the Current Communications group worked as a team. By the time of the event, we had formed such a trust with each other in the group that we could anticipate challenges before they arose. We were ready to spring into action at a moments notice at the onset of a challenge. Each group member performed his or her tasks, as well as assisted with other tasks “outside” of their direct responsibilities on numerous occasions.
Each member of Current Communications has an inexhaustible list of lessons and stories about what each has learned along the way during this campaign that will be carried forward into the “real world.”
Each member of Current Communications at the beginning of this journey was concerned about the grade that we were to receive on our transcript. We learned through this incredible experience that it never was about the grade, for grades are nonexistent in the “real world.” Rather, it was about learning how to come together with different learning styles, different experiences, different talents and different perspectives to be a part of something that was bigger than each of us individually.
Current Communications may be a PR firm that was created for an academic purpose, but the skills and life lessons that each has learned as a result are priceless.