For Sister Nurah Muhammad, helping the city she loves, particularly young girls in the city she loves is a true calling. It is something that she’s passionate about, so much so that four years ago she founded the E3 (Empowering, Encouraging, Eliminating Barriers) Mentoring Program.
The drive to work with and help kids, particularly young girls, started years ago for her, as a child when she visited her mother in Camden and saw the struggles she faced and how she needed support. Later, she went to Rutgers-Camden and fell in love with the city, eventually moving into Camden with her husband to raise her family.
These days, her own boys are 18 and 19 and when she finishes her work day, that’s when she “puts on her cape” so to speak and gives back to our community. Through E3 she works to empower young girls and help them overcome some of their struggles and their self-doubt to become more confident and successful. “I just really love working with young people … and it’s so important for me to help young women find their identity.”
The girls she works with, sometimes in workshops or small groups, and sometimes one on one, are often dealing with problems that are hidden by some of the anti-social behaviors they may display. Trauma, abuse, food insecurity, housing insecurity, bullying – these are just some of the issues Muhammad says girls are often struggling to cope with. Muhammad says it’s important to make sure the girls she mentors know that she’ll be there for them, to listen and support them, and even to let them act out at first and endure it so that they eventually feel comfortable opening up when they’re ready.
“You lead with love, with compassion or you’re not leading at all.”
Beyond E3, Muhammad also volunteers her time and energy as a chaplain with the state Juvenile Justice Commission, with the Camden Youth Leadership and Readiness Program and the county’s Cultural Awareness Commission.
She has also volunteered in recent months with the Camden County Police Department’s curfew enforcement initiative on weekends and likes the way officers are taking a nuanced, not heavy-handed approach that would include writing tickets by just talking to kids and parents to make sure they understand the curfew and how it’s about safety. She sees the department, particularly Lt. Vivian Coley through her leadership with Unity Policing and the curfew initiative “working to bridge the gap between law enforcement and young people.”
Written by Mike Daniels