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3 Young People Share Why They’re Organizing Campouts Against Violence

Last week, the Cook County medical examiner’s office reported its 400th homicide in Chicago this year. The killings have outpaced last year’s surge in homicides, but one group of young adults is helping lead a fresh approach to reduce the violence — they’re camping out.

They’re part of The Resurrection Project, a nonprofit that focuses on building communities. Through the program, they started a series of summer campouts throughout the South Side so residents could take a stand against guns and use their physical presence as an anti-violence statement. Three more campouts are scheduled for this summer.

The campouts are lively and last from 5 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Saturday. They include music, dancing, food and activities for children. The organizers — who wear “Increase the Peace” t-shirts — said the campouts keep families from being afraid, help residents claim blocks as their own, give youth constructive public activities, and let groups of South Siders enjoy summertime in Chicago.

WBEZ attended one of these campouts at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Some of the young organizers shared their thoughts on what the campouts do for the community.

Berto Aguayo

Aguayo, 22, is the lead organizer with 'The Resurrection Project.' He lives and works in Back of the Yards.

“These campouts are really part of our recruitment tool. That’s how gang members [recruit] when they sit on their street corner, and they’re out there and attracted to a young person. It’s like we scout them. If they have leadership potential, we take them through our free leadership training. Since that beginning, a lot of the people wearing the ‘Increase the Peace’ shirts are the ones organizing actions. It’s a means to get young people involved, but to recruit those young leaders that would be in the hands of other street organizations.”

Luis Rafael

Rafael, 22, from Englewood, is a volunteer and youth leader with 'The Resurrection Project.'

“The youth nowadays are in danger to stay out so late in the streets just because what’s been going on in Chicago lately. We want to make sure they have a safe environment. They can keep on networking, enjoying the fellowship, enjoying amazing music while breaking bread. It catches their attention with all the activities and programs we have going on while encouraging them to become leaders in their own communities, which they live in.”

Mayra Martinez

Martinez, 15, from Back of the Yards, is a volunteer and youth leader with 'The Resurrection Project.'

“We’re here to make the communities come together. I wanted to do this because I was here at the last camp out and I saw how people got together and united — and how we made an impact. There’s many good outcomes. The one I most love, we look around and we see a lot of youth, the next generation. If we teach young people from the beginning that this violence doing isn’t right, then they know how to teach their kids how to make the future community a better place.”

The next campout will start Friday evening at St. Ann’s Catholic Church at 1840 S. Leavitt St.

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