A Soul’s Development: Reflections On Moving In And Out Of Newark 

By Blair Ralston

Growing up as a young gay man from the Caribbean, I struggled to find a place where I felt like I “fit in”.  On October 29th, 1997 I moved from Kingston, Jamaica to the United States and the possibilities of who and what I could become seemed endless! I did however continue to struggle to understand myself; family issues, other unresolved feelings and emotions. In many ways my arrival to The States heightened my search for a sanctuary. 

After hearing about Project WOW! Youth Center I maneuvered my way to Newark. This was my first introduction to the city. At the center I participated in counseling sessions, eventually becoming a volunteer.  Through this work my appreciation and dedication to Newark intensified and I was then recognized and hired on staff within 90 days. Accepting the position is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made (even after passing up on another offer for a position that paid doubled the salary!). Had I not worked in Newark I would have missed the opportunity serve its people. 
I witnessed unique hardships that take place here. Many people “lack” connections to resources. This disconnect influenced my work with people here: HIV, substandard living conditions and homelessness all had deep impacts in those I cared for.  Despite these complications I can not help but see the beauty here. There is an abundance of goodness and generosity to be found in the people. Everyone here embodies greatness.

Project Wow!/Newark helped mold me into the man I am today. Helped me to push the limits of who I thought was, what I am capable of and taught me how necessary it is to have meaningful relationships. After all we never know where our future will take us. 

After Jamaica, Newark became my second home. Now as I move on to California it will forever be the place I developed friendships, redefined what family means, and where I enjoyed awesome experiences that I will forever treasure. 

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