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Skilled peer facilitators serve more than 800 people a year in Brooklyn

Special Interest Programme / Partner story

Credit : Kings Against Violence Initiative 

In the heart of Brooklyn, New York City, Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI) is working to enrich the lives of young people through education, advocacy, leadership, and community mobilisation. One of its key goals is to help prevent and eliminate the interpersonal violence that threatens young people in this borough. 

KAVI understands that when young people resort to violence, it is often both the symptom and cause of longstanding and systemic inequities, poverty, and marginalisation. “Our work is grounded in the belief that young people are our greatest hope for a more just and peaceful world,” says Anthony Buissereth, KAVI’s co-executive director. “When we partner with our communities to invest in our youth, we understand their challenges and can work to change the course of historical inequities.” 

While violence impacts all communities throughout the United States, higher than average rates of violence have been a persistent issue that deeply impacts communities in urban areas with large, concentrated populations. According to Neighborhood Scout, nearly 50,000 crimes occur annually in the borough of Brooklyn, New York.1 It is no surprise that concerns about public safety and the threat of violence are top of mind for families living in the neighbourhood. 

The name ‘Kings’ comes from the link to Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, where KAVI’s founder Dr Robert Gore works in the emergency department. Dr Gore set up KAVI in 2009 to address the impact of gang and interpersonal violence in Brooklyn. As a result, KAVI teams operate in the hospital, as well as in schools, and the communities throughout the borough. Serving more than 800 young people a year, many of its programmes are run by young adults, KAVI’s Peer Facilitators, who include former KAVI programme participants and graduates from partner high schools. 

In response to gun violence, which is the leading cause of death among 15-to-24-year-olds in the United States,2 the KAVI team is on standby at the hospital emergency room. 

They are ready to provide support services to young people recovering from physical injuries linked to gun violence, as well as the emotional trauma they have experienced. KAVI provides ongoing support for victims and families for up to a year, with some patients continuing to seek their services for even longer. KAVI’s efforts have resulted in significantly reducing re-injury and hospital return rates.3 

In addition, KAVI offers violence prevention and intervention programmes and curriculum in local high schools and engages in community-building initiatives. “I tell all my friends about KAVI because the peer facilitators and the other teens are like family to me now,” says Nerma Lafrance, a student who has graduated from the High School of Human Rights and is now attending college in North Carolina studying psychology. 

This grant falls under Oak Foundation’s Special Interest Programme, which covers a wide range of fields, including environment, health, humanitarian relief, education, and the arts. You can find out more about the programme and its strategy by here. You can also find out more about KAVI on its website by here.

[1] Brooklyn, New York, Crime Rates, Neighborhood Scout, Brooklyn Crime data, Brooklyn annual crimes https://www., (Accessed 31-01-23)

[2] Goldstick JE, Carter PM, Cunningham RM. Current epidemiological trends in firearm mortality in the United States. JAMA Psychiatry 2021;78:241-242. (Accessed 31- 01-23)

[3] Cunningham RM, Carter PM, Ranney M, Zimmerman MA, Blow FC, et al. (2015) Violent reinjury and mortality among youth seeking emergency department care for assault-related injury: a 2-year prospective cohort study. JAMA Pediatr169: 63–70. doi: 10.1001/ jamapediatrics.2014.1900 PMID: 25365147 (Accessed 31-01-23)