SAPHE Haven Inc, is a new violence prevention program
Asinia Abdul-Wakeel would say everything he’s done has led up to building his own nonprofit.
Whether through counseling, behavioral health coaching or building out peer mediation programs in the school district of Philadelphia, he has dedicated his life to building programs that help with the challenges that many younger folks face growing up in the city. As of last year, SAPHE Haven Inc. is a reality.
Abdul-Wakeel started SAPHE Haven’s programs last year in Germantown at Waterview Recreation Center. His organization was a recipient of a grant from the Office of Violence Prevention. But SAPHE Haven had been a long time coming for him.
“Because I have a passion for youth, for helping youth that have challenges similar to the challenges I experienced growing up in this city in this particular neighborhood, that is definitely what guided me and motivated me to start my nonprofit,” Abdul-Wakeel said.
Abdul-Wakeel is no stranger to Germantown, having gone to what is now Mastery-Pickett School, continuing to Central High School, Drexel and LaSalle. Throughout all his school years, his mother stressed to him and his siblings the importance of education and he passed that on to his children and the students he works with as well.
Two of his most popular programs while working on peer mediation taught students how to counsel and mediate conflict between peers, and his “Healthy Relationships” program– all about healthy ways to interact with folks you are in relationships with. It was his most requested workshop. Abdul-Wakeel notes that many of the students he’s worked with in the past appreciated the skills they learned in it.
“[I am] trying to give back to the kids and trying to teach them about health related things and topics that I know would have benefitted me if I had them in addition to school and my academic career,” Abdul-Wakeel said.
“What motivated me was in my master’s program degree in LaSalle,” he continued. “I gravitated to youth nonprofit development. My thesis was on violence prevention. I’ve always gravitated to violence prevention.”
Abdul-Wakeel designed a violence prevention program for his thesis, but didn’t get to implement it right away. After about seven years, and extra time and motivation when the pandemic started, he was finally able to start his own program. Witnessing the rise of gun violence in the city was also a motivator.
Abdul-Wakeel heard about the Office of Violence Prevention grants the week before the application was due. He wrote up a grant proposal with a plan to market the program straight to kids using incentives, including free sneakers. And it worked.
That was last fall. It’s been a journey of challenges with getting the actual grant monies reimbursed for executing the program and a slew of Covid-19 related pauses, but doing direct engagement and outreach in front of schools, businesses, and libraries about the program got a regular group of kids out to Waterview Rec Center. In the end, reimbursements were made, and with his own investment and the community’s help, he ran the program and had the class “graduate.”
SAPHE Haven’s programming has ended at Waterview Rec Center, but Asinia Abdul- Wakeel’s nonprofit journey is still moving forward.