The founders of Samara’s Village each have something in common: a passion for helping teens. Samara’s Village is a non-profit organization dedicated to offering teen pregnancy and parenting services.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mark Steelman
It all began with Kathrine White, Jean-Marie Lee, Jaime Meirs, and Donna Robey-Sullivan. They attended the same church but didn’t really know each other. Through time, they formed a bond due to a common goal.
“In 2015, the pastor of our church challenged us to find our passion,” says Robey-Sullivan, co-founder and treasurer. “We each independently decided that we had a passion for teens, and for me, it was female teen adolescents.”
“Kathrine was the visionary and the one who spearheaded the idea to start the organization,” says Robey-Sullivan.
White and Lee began walking together in the mornings. They shared their thoughts regarding their pastor’s challenge and they both expressed an eagerness to help adolescents. They began seeking information about how to form an organization to support teen parents. Someone directed them to speak with Robey-Sullivan who has a Master’s in non-profit management and a background in accounting.
Someone directed them to speak with Robey-Sullivan who has a Master’s in non-profit management and a background in accounting. Meirs, a former teen parent herself and a registered nurse of fifteen years with seven years experience in public health, also came on board. Along with White, who has a B.S. in organizational management and is a Navy Veteran, and Lee, who is a licensed clinical social worker, the credentials and experiences of the four women meshed into a cohesive group to successfully start Samara’s Village.
The group met to discuss particulars. Knowing that teen pregnancy was an issue in Brunswick County, each looked at what was available within the area to aid pregnant and parenting teens. They noticed that the current programs helped meet physical and educational needs only. The team wanted to create a service that worked in a holistic way; one that not only considered the individuals themselves but the entire family unit. They wanted to help build the family support system in a nonjudgmental way.
“We are seeing an increase in teens younger than 15 years old getting pregnant,” says Robey-Sullivan, “and we are here to prevent that. We want to empower, educate and support them so that they can be in control of their lives, and grow into productive and responsible adults in Brunswick County.”
Within three months, the team was granted a 501(c)(3) from the IRS, and ready to go.
“The quick turnaround is not typical,” says Robey-Sullivan.
The founders chose the name Samara’s Village because the name means “under God’s protection”.
“And we operate under the notion that it ‘takes a village’ to raise a child,” says Robey-Sullivan.
Within their first year they received 23 referrals (either from teens themselves, family members, or the County). Samara’s Village initially met individual’s immediate needs and has since transitioned into offering so much more. The program is designed to be long-term and one in which teens can participate for up to four years.
To nourish successful outcomes, each teen entering Samara’s Village is asked to set up educational, interpersonal, and health goals.
“We greet the client wherever she is at that time in life,” says Robey-Sullivan.
The organization offers counseling, a 24/7 Dad program, prenatal education, teen childbirth classes, government referral assistance, and a home visit program that is an evidence-based design proven to support the entire family, as well as reduce repeat teen pregnancies, drop-outs and child-abuse. Samara’s Village is currently phasing in added educational services and life-skills classes.
“We now have a new space where we can offer tutoring and educational support for teens,” says Robey-Sullivan.
In this lounge, the teens can access a computer for online high school classes and other needs in a welcoming, safe and comfortable environment with a ‘home-feel’.
“It is also a place where they can socialize and meet others like them,” says Robey-Sullivan.
Samara’s Village is solely run from a large volunteer pool of professionals who give of themselves and their expertise and time. They are organized into teams such as home visitors, counselors, administrative workers, tutors, and ambassadors.
“The people in this community are committed to loving these teens and to be role models without judgement,” says Lee.
“I’ve been energized by seeing the number of people in Brunswick County who are ready to stand up and support our organization. We have great people here, and they have inspired me,” says Robey-Sullivan.
Contact Samara’s Village
Samara’s Village is located at 1450 Fifty Lake Drive, Unit F, Southport, NC 28461.
For more information or how you can volunteer call 910-294-0292 email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find them online at samarasvillage.org.