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history the board and the team

In January 1998, Zaid Gayle and Marni Otway began to realize their dream: to create a peaceful, safe haven in the middle of Watts, one of the most violent urban environments in Los Angeles.  Zaid and Marni were veterans of serving at-risk youth.  They knew these kids needed something different.

The Peace Garden Project kicked off with a group of ten elementary school students. Every Saturday for three months, the kids faithfully picked overgrown weeds, preparing the soil for planting. Over those three months, the number of kids and volunteers working on the project tripled.

Fast forward to 2004, when the dramatic growth of Peace4Kids began.

In 2004, Peace4Kids established its Teen Program, with a focus on independent living skills, economic literacy, dream discovery and goal setting.  In 2005, Peace4Kids launched its Mentor Program linking foster and at-risk youth with caring adults.  In 2006, Peace4Kids piloted its Emancipation Services Program, which provides intensive supports and services to youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood.

Today, Peace4Kids serves an annual roster of over 250 youth with a full-time staff of 8, an ever-growing volunteer base of over 60 dedicated adults, and hundreds of supporters.  With a mandate to serve more children and teens with more services, Peace4Kids continues to raise the bar of possibilities for foster youth.



Peace4Kids, ten years of firsts....

  • March 1998
    10 Kids and 5 volunteers start the “Peace Garden” at 99th Street Elementary School in South Los Angeles.
    An “all volunteer” project, it is a small organic garden designed to commemorate the lives of non-violence pioneers Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • June 1998
    The first field trip to Playa Del Rey Beach. Realizing that most of the youth had not had experiences outside of their neighborhoods, we took the kids on a city bus ride to the beach for the day.

  • December 1998
    The first camping trip in the cold of winter at Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu.
    Recognizing that many kids are not with their biological families during the holidays we felt it was important to go away for the weekend and celebrate the holidays together as “family”.

  • February 1999
    The first sibling pair has a visit at the “Peace Garden”.
    Realizing that foster youth often don’t get to visit with their siblings in a friendly setting, we set up an environment where siblings could spend time with each other while having fun.

  • December 1999
    First holiday party.
    With donations of gifts from volunteers and the community, the holiday party brought together 25 youth and 10 volunteers. The highlight of the party was the pictures with Santa that every youth got to take home.

  • August 2000
    It’s Official. The “Peace Garden” becomes an official non profit and Peace4Kids is founded by Zaid Gayle and Marni Otway.

  • September 2001
    First creative education classes
    focusing on the arts, sciences, nutrition and health.

  • January 2002
    The first youth returns after losing their placement.
    After losing a placement in her foster home, one of our youth returns to our program after a two month absence. Peace4Kids contacted her new foster parent and offered free transportation so the child would be able to attend Peace4Kids consistently while in her new home.

  • July 2003
    The first teen emancipates from Foster Care.
    Through many challenges she remains connected to Peace4Kids seeking guidance and support through this difficult time.

  • May 2004
    Peace4Kids hires first staff member.
    After six years of being an “all-volunteer” organization, Peace4Kids receives its first major grant and hires its first employee, Executive Director, Zaid Gayle.

  • August 2004
    Peace4Kids Partners with Watts/Willowbrook Boy & Girls Club.
    With the number of youth participating in our programs on Saturday growing rapidly, Peace4Kids partners with WWBGC to have additional program space for classes and activities.

  • September 2005
    Mentor Program begins. Recognizing our kids needed more one on one time our volunteers expressed an interest to do more.

  • October 2006
    Emancipation Services Program begins. Resource Specialist are now available to our transitioning youth 24/7 to ensure our youth become successful and self sufficient adults.

  • September 2007
    Peapod Music and Arts Academy is formed.

  • Peace4Kids Celebrates 10 years of service to foster
    children in Los Angeles
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