PYE’s story is about the power of partnership, and the possibilities it unleashes. It began 20 years ago with the meeting of our two founders, Charlie Murphy and Peggy Taylor. The ripple effect of their close collaboration has unfolded around the globe, empowering than 10,000 practitioners and one million youth (and counting). A shared belief in the power of creativity brought them together.
Remembering his own transformative youth camp experiences, and concerned about the state of youth in America, Charlie left his 18-year career as a singer/songwriter. He pursued meaningful work, empowering teens using the arts. In program leadership at the YMCA, he quickly discovered that all young people, regardless of their circumstances, are highly creative, compassionate, and deep. However, most educational and youth programs weren’t developing these valuable inner resources. Of his time with the YMCA, he says, “My belief in the power of art to transform lives was confirmed as I watched youth after youth step into more power and become more confident as they expressed themselves through poetry and music.”
Meanwhile, after graduating from a Masters program in Creative Arts in Learning at Lesley University, Peggy left a career as a journalist covering social change movements. She says, “I had become passionate about the role the creative arts can play in re-weaving our communities and reminding us of our higher possibilities as human beings.” Peggy was determined to find a way to use the arts for social healing.
Introduced by a mutual friend in 1995, it wasn’t long before Peggy and Charlie joined forces to put a shared vision into action. They held a five-day gathering for teens in 1996, infused with arts empowerment, learning from nature, and confidence-boosting community. The gathering’s success spurred them to start a non-profit program to provide week-long summer camps for young people. They called it The Power of Hope: Youth Empowerment Through the Arts, and it grew in leaps and bounds as word spread to youth and adult volunteers.
As Power of Hope flourished in the Pacific Northwest, Charlie and Peggy felt called to make the framework for their youth camps, called the Creative Community Model, available in other communities. In addition to working with youth, they began to train youth workers and service providers, creating an exponential impact as those practitioners then worked with more youth. Collaboration with BeadforLife, a poverty eradication program in Kampala, Uganda, and LIFEbeat in the UK soon followed, including successful training of their staff. The Creative Community Model took root and became a core tenant of the organizations’ youth camps and programs, still in place and thriving today.
The momentum of these partnerships led to the official founding of PYE in 2008. The goal was to put forward the principles and practices for building transformative Creative Communities, making them ever more accessible and widely available. PYE quickly gathered steam, sparking new partnerships with youth organizations in Brazil, Colombia, Canada, South Africa, India, and beyond. PYE continues to forge new partnerships each year, and has expanded its offerings to include Creative Classroom Trainings for teachers and schools. The Creative Community Model is currently in practice on five continents, fueling effective, transformative empowerment programs for young people.
As our network has grown, so too has the calling to provide ongoing resources and support to the youth workers, teachers, and other adult mentors around the world who use the Creative Community Model in their work. Whether supporting young women with HIV/AIDS in Nepal, or training community leaders in rural South Africa, we want to stay connected with all practitioners who have come through our trainings and help maximize their impact. Our extensive online network of more than 10,000 creative change-makers allows us to reach out and build community that persists long after trainings end.
Charlie and Peggy’s inspiring partnership, and vision for a world that values and supports the creativity, voices, and contributions of young people, is at the heart of what we do. PYE operates with a spirit of collaboration at every level. We partner with amazing local organizations around the world, wherever we can. We coordinate with a global network of facilitators and volunteers who help make our trainings and youth camps happen. Our own small team is defined by teamwork, always eager to support each other and help new ideas take flight. As PYE’s reach continues to grow, we hope you’ll partner with us, too. Help plant the seeds of Creative Communities that change the lives of youth. Let’s make PYE’s next chapter the best one yet.