Villages Without Walls
Villages Without Walls
A Conversation with Talia Rivera
by Alesha Gunn
Growing up in Mattapan, I am all too familiar with the social ills that plague many urban communities across the country. I do not have to stray too far from my home to witness these destructive behaviors: Scantily clad women pacing up and down the streets searching for their next client, homeless men and women on the corner begging for money to purchase their next hit, young men loitering the streets ready to shoot the next person that walks by who is not from their block. Constant exposure to such a reality is sure to destroy one’s sense of hope. I myself sometimes wonder if things will ever change.
Villages Without Walls is a Boston based non-profit organization that is committed to restoring hope to broken communities, specifically youths. Founded in 2001, the program’s mission is to improve urban community conditions and confront family challenges through constructive economic, educational and social services.
I got a chance to interview co-founder and Executive Director of Villages Without Walls, Talia Rivera. Rivera, a Boston native, has been working in the field of youth work for approximately 10 years. She was inspired to do so from her experience as a youth. During the interview, she spoke unashamedly about her mother being addicted to crack cocaine, and how, as a result of that, she was forced to survive on her own by selling drugs. After being arrested, and spending some time in a correctional facility, she stated that she knew it was time to change her life. And she did, with the help of her pastor, Dr. Gwendolyn G. Weeks of Bethel Tabernacle Pentecostal church.
Since then, Rivera has been dedicated to helping at-risk youths through the Villages Without Walls program. The youths hired to participate in the program conduct study circles in which they discuss issues that are affecting them at that particular moment in their lives, and things that can be done to change them. Some topics include family, relationships, police harassment, and violence. Rivera believes that these discussions help restore dignity and self-worth in the youth participants, as well as give them an opportunity to redeem themselves to the community that they have offended.
Villages Without Walls is a positive force in the Boston community. Currently, the program only runs during the summer. However, Rivera remains hopeful about receiving the necessary funds to run the program year round and increasing its effectiveness.