Harambee City Builders

Each day our youth earn an educational stipend in our training classes and then head out into our neighborhood to volunteer by providing tuckpointing to low income homeowners. We’ve found this to be an innovative way to keep kids off the street while allowing them to bring needed restoration to their own neighborhoods- all while gaining hands-on work experience. Youth are usually pointed to as the source of the problems in Chicago with gangs, drugs, and gun violence but Harambee gives our youth a chance to demonstrate they can be the source of restoration and renewal. 

Within Harambee, youth ages 12-18 are trained in the skill of tuckpointing, preparing them not only for union trades careers, but also for hard work in any field. Our youth learn this profitable skill by providing free work primarily for low-income homeowners within our neighborhood.

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The Harambee Model

Harambee Citybuilders is modeled after a successful ministry in St. Louis, Missouri which began in 1996 to provide work experience, mentoring and basic job training to inner city youth. By 2000, their summer program had been formed, focusing on the construction trade of tuckpointing (replacing worn-out mortar in brick homes). Each year over 90 youth provide over $500,000 worth of free tuckpointing to low-income homeowners in neglected St. Louis neighborhoods.

“Harambee” is a Swahili word that means “let’s push together to get this thing done!” Today, many people from Chicago and beyond “push together” to make a difference in our target neighborhood of Humboldt Park in Chicago’s West Side. During 2017,  the Harambee model has been adopted as part of River City Community Development Center’s Citybuilders Apprenticeships  as the final stretch of their cradle to career path for community youth. Michelle and Anthony Johnson lead this program with over 20 years combined experience training youth in this profitable masonry skill.

For Homeowners

Each year our students complete several projects in our community free of charge as a training opportunity. If you would like to find out if you or a family member qualify for free tuckpointing on our home, consider the following qualifications, and download our application below. 

  • Your home is made of bricks or stone and needs tuckpointing. 
  • You live in and own your home!
  • Your home is in West Humboldt Park, Austin, or Garfield Park.

Projects are chosen based on urgency of the tuckpointing need, family income, geographic proximity, and our ability to handle the difficulty of each job. Special priority is given to seniors, persons with disabilities, and those qualifying as low-income.