The Reciprocity Foundation
Transforming Youth from Within
The Reciprocity Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 by Taz Tagore and Adam Bucko to help homeless, runaway, and foster care youth from all five boroughs of New York City to realize their full potential. While nearly all of their clients have suffered from physical, emotional, sexual and/or psychological abuse at the hands of a close relation, Reciprocity believes that these youth’s strong survival skills and unique life experiences prepare them to become exceptional corporate leaders, community activists, media-makers and educators. In addition to helping youth develop skills and find jobs to get them off the streets, they also provide access to holistic health services at their center to help them cope with stress and heal from trauma.
At the Reciprocity Foundation, they have pioneered a different way to work with homeless youth—a methodology called the “Whole Person” approach. A Whole Person approach involves looking deeply into a young person’s mind, heart and spirit and seeing them as a Whole Human Being—a person with the desire to realize their full potential, to make a contribution to the world, to be loved and to heal from their past.
Adaptation from My God Lives on the Street by Adam Bucko:
It’s nighttime. I am walking outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal, that depressing brick behemoth on 42nd Street and 8th Avenue that is the main hub for buses arriving to and departing from New York City. I am looking for homeless kids, trying to spot new arrivals who might still be hanging out, unsure of where to go. I keep my gaze active, scanning the outside and the various crevices of the building.
Tonight, like every night, there are about 4,000 kids in New York City who will spend the night on the street. While most of us will be comfortably resting in our beds, many of these 4,000 will sleep on the subway, in an abandoned building, or with a person with whom they will have to compromise their dignity in exchange for a place to sleep. I want to reach them to offer help before they disappear into the Manhattan sinkhole. But I am not the only one looking for them. As soon as they step off the bus, there is a chain of pimps waiting for them, ready to promise them the future that they dream of. Ready to mesmerize their minds, stab their souls, and imprison their consciences.
In 2004 Taz Tagore and I co-founded the Reciprocity Foundation, an organization that offers street youth support and helps them build healthy and successful lives. Our job is to catch the kids before they become victims of this never-ending cycle of horror, abuse, and prostitution. It is just a question of who gets to them first.
Over the years, I have met thousands of homeless kids. Some I was able to help, and some I lost. So here I am today walking these streets, prayerfully knowing that each time I see a kid, it might be the last time. Knowing this changes everything. Knowing this lends urgency to my work.
The kids we have helped through the Reciprocity Foundation tell me that we are their only family. They say our center is the only place they have ever felt loved. I stop for a moment and recall all the happy faces I have seen over the years. Kids who went through our program and whose lives were changed. Kids who discovered their talents and now work with other struggling teens. Kids who graduated from college and are now beacons of hope in this hopeless world of the streets. Kids who recently made a film called “Invisible: Diaries of New York’s Homeless Youth.” It aired on a major network, was nominated for an Emmy Award and showed everyone that homeless youth, once given proper attention and care, are capable of doing great things. All of them came to us in a state of despair, and through the Foundation got what they needed to lead purposeful and meaningful lives. Thinking of them, I know that I cannot, I will not, give up on those in need of help.
It is 3 a.m. and time to go home. As I walk towards the subway I try to hold [the faces of kids I have known] in my heart and offer them to God. Along the way I hear a mad street preacher desperately screaming, “Where is God? Where is God? Where is God?!” I look at him, and the words of Mother Teresa come to mind: “Jesus is the Hungry – to be fed. Jesus is the Thirsty – to be satiated. Jesus is the Naked – to be clothed. Jesus is the Homeless – to be taken in. Jesus is the Lonely – to be loved. Jesus is the Unwanted – to be wanted.” Where is God? He is here on this street, laying naked in the gutter. He is here on this street, homeless. He is here on this street, in all the lonely and unwanted, waiting for our love.
As I continue my walk towards the subway I wonder, what will it take for us to notice Him?
More by Adam Bucko:
- One Path, Many Paths: A Dialogue on the Role of Religion in Modern Times between Adam Bucko and Zachary Markwith
- New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Life in the 21st Century by Adam Bucko and Rory McEntee
This inspiring gallery comes from the Reciprocity Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 by Taz Tagore and Adam Bucko to help homeless, runaway, and foster care youth from all five boroughs of New York City to realize their full potential. Below the gallery you will find more information on Reciprocity and an excerpt from Adam Bucko’s article My God Lives on the Street.
Gallery of Images