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Student Helps Protect Children from Gangs in Jamaica

Khadijah Brydson

Khadijah Brydson (C’14) says she started the nonprofit organization Emerging from Lo Debar, Inc., to protect children in the Jamaican town of Savanna-la-Mar from gangs. (Photo Credit: Paulette Waltz)

May 29, 2012 – A rising junior government and sociology major at Georgetown has created a nonprofit organization to steer children away from gangs in a small coastal town in Jamaica called Savanna-la-Mar.

Khadijah Brydson (C’14) was born in New York but also lived in and felt emotionally tied to the town known locally as Sav-la-Mar, where gang warfare and illiteracy reign. Her family now lives in Miami.

To reverse the trend and protect young children, Brydson founded the nonprofit organization Emerging from Lo Debar, Inc.

Trying to Help

A devout Christian, she came to view Sav-la-Mar as a mirror of Lo Debar, an Israeli city mentioned in the Old Testament.

“Lo Debar was a city that basically no one wanted to enter because of its violence and poverty,” Brydson explained. “Many people were afraid to go there. That’s how I felt about the area in Jamaica that I was trying to help.”

She said taxi drivers won’t drive to Sav-la-Mar because it’s so dangerous.

“Even the police themselves are afraid to go because of the violence,” she said.

Gathering Support

“But I wanted to show students that they could emerge from this area,” Brydson continued. “That’s why I named [the nonprofit] Emerging from Lo Debar.”

Brydson launched the organization in the summer of 2009, shortly before the beginning of her senior year in high school.

Funding the organization with her own savings, she asked local branches of Walmart and Target and other organizations to donate money and school supplies. The organizations ranged from The Links, Incorporated, an African American sorority network, to A.M. Cohen Temple, Byrdson’s church in Miami.

All responded positively and contributed to Brydson’s new nonprofit.

Engaging children

With funding, the Georgetown student was able to craft activities that educated, entertained and socially engaged the children of Sav-la-Mar.

She created tutoring workshops for math and grammar, and a pen pal system through Big Brothers Big Sisters International that highlighted literacy and critical thinking.

“One of the most important things was the pen pal system,” Brydson recalled. “I matched [students] with mentors from Miami, and they wrote each other on a monthly basis."

Since coming to the Hilltop, Brydson has found that managing her nonprofit is harder than it was in high school, when she had more free time, less rigorous coursework, and lived a thousand miles closer to Jamaica.

Jesuits Ideals

But she believes Emerging from Lo Debar has a bright future.

Fifty Georgetown students have already told Brydson they intend to volunteer for her program, allowing a one-to-one ratio for mentors to pupils.

“I feel like being at Georgetown has motivated me to be more active than I was in high school as far as promoting social justice, just [by] learning about Jesuit ideals and how that corresponds to what social justice is,” Brydson said.

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