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'I was ready to give up': Mother who lost her son gives credit to program for helping her heal

Project Ujima helps families impacted by gun violence
Posted at 6:31 PM, May 20, 2021

Project Ujima in Milwaukee started as an idea by emergency room staff to help families impacted by gun violence. They wanted to heal not just the physical, but emotional, wounds.

The program is an extension of Children's Hospital Wisconsin and has been around since 1995.

It started out as a program to help youth impacted by gun violence, but in recent years expanded to everyone impacted by violence.

Shannon and her son Deandre Allen

Shannon Allen's son, Deandre Allen, was shot several times four years ago. It was the day after Christmas and happened near 39th and Michigan street.

Life for her has never been the same.

Since that day, Allen and her family have not gotten the closure they want, as no arrest has been made.

"I was ready to give up. I wanted to go and be where Deandre was," Allen said.

Deandre Allen

But a visit from a Project Ujima team member gave her the hope to get through.

"I wouldn't trade them for nothing in the world, because I wouldn't know what I would do without them," Allen said as she cried.

Project Ujima helps families of victims impacted by gun violence and connects them with the resources they need.

That includes teen groups, a children healing camp and an outlet for mothers like Allen to meet other women.

"I didn't like the fact of how we all became a family, but the fact that we all walk the same walk, of pain and grief," Allen said.

She added that the women in the group lean on each other on their darkest days and can also laugh together.

According to Project Ujima, in 2020 there were 188 homicide referrals, compared to 114 in 2019.

Just in April of this year, there have been more than 21 referrals, compared to 10 in March.

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Project Ujima Manager Brooke Cheaton says recently the team is seeing a troubling increase.

"The last year we have seen an extreme surge in the number of victims of gun violence coming into the emergency department at Children's Wisconsin," Cheaton said. "The numbers are about double from 2019."

So their work continues to create a safety net for families impacted by gun violence.

Allen has been a part of the program for more than four years and can say without a doubt it has changed for the better.

"When we came in that door, we didn't leave out the same way we came in. There was a little more hope," Allen said.

If you would like to get in contact with Project Ujima staff, click here.

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