Our Story

Partners for Youth Empowerment founders Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy happily watching an activity together
Charlie Murphy and Peggy Taylor

Our story is about the power of partnership, and the possibilities it unleashes. It began in 1995 with the meeting of our two of our founders, Charlie Murphy and Peggy Taylor. The ripple effect of their close collaboration has unfolded around the globe, empowering more than 10,000 practitioners and one million youth (and counting). A shared belief in the power of creativity brought them together.

Charlie had left an 18-year career as a singer/songwriter to work with young people. He was concerned about the pressures youth were facing and wondered if the tools he had learned as an artist might be helpful to them. He tested his ideas through a job as National Training Director of the YMCA Earth Service Corps: “My belief in the power of art to transform lives was confirmed as I watched youth after youth step into more power and become more confident as they expressed themselves through poetry and music.”

Peggy had entered graduate school after a 20-year career in the publishing business, receiving a Masters of Education in Creative Arts in Learning from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “In graduate school I became passionate about the role the creative arts can play in re-weaving our communities and reminding us of our higher possibilities as human beings.” Peggy was determined to find a way to use the arts for social healing.

Peggy and Charlie found The Power of Hope: Youth Empowerment through the Arts

Peggy and Charlie joined forces to put a shared vision into action. They held a five-day gathering for teens in 1996 called the Power of Hope. The gathering was intergenerational with 29 youth and 15 adults and was infused with arts empowerment, learning from nature, and confidence-boosting community. The gathering’s success spurred them to start a non-profit called the Power of Hope: Youth Empowerment through the Arts.

Central to their philosophy was the notion that young people thrive around adults who are in touch with their own creativity and have a passion for making this world a better place. So from the start they focused on training adults to be the best possible teaching artists, youth workers, teachers, and mentors. Over the next ten years the Power of Hope program flourished in North America and British Columbia, Canada.

Ian Watson joins Peggy and Charlie to found Partners for Youth Empowerment

Through a connection with Bead for Life, a poverty eradication program in Kampala, Uganda, Charlie and Peggy took the Creative Empowerment Model to Uganda in 2006. Soon after, they met Ian Watson, an entrepreneur whose daughter had benefitted from Power of Hope Camp. Ian suggested joining with Charlie and Peggy to found Partners for Youth Empowerment to expand the international work. With his experience in international business, Ian provided crucial guidance on how to spread the Creative Empowerment Model globally. The new organization quickly gathered steam, sparking new partnerships with youth organizations in Brazil, Colombia, Canada, South Africa, India, and beyond. Partners for Youth Empowerment continues to forge new partnerships each year, and in 2015 expanded its offerings to include Creative Classroom Trainings for teachers and schools. The Creative Empowerment Model is currently in practice on five continents, fueling effective, transformative empowerment programs for young people.

As our network has grown, so too has the calling to provide ongoing resources and support to the youth workers, teachers, and other adult mentors around the world who use the Creative Empowerment Model in their work. Whether its social workers supporting young people with HIV/AIDS in Uganda, or facilitators training community leaders in rural South Africa, or youth workers training teachers near Bangalore, India, we endeavor to stay connected with all practitioners who have come through our trainings and help maximize their impact. Our extensive online network of more than 10,000 creative change-makers allows us to reach out and build community that persists long after trainings end.

Charlie, Peggy, and Ian’s inspiring partnership, and vision for a world that values and supports the creativity, voices, and contributions of young people, is at the heart of what we do. We operate with a spirit of collaboration at every level. We partner with amazing local organizations around the world. We coordinate with a global network of facilitators and volunteers who help make our trainings and youth camps happen. Our own small team is defined by teamwork, eager to support each other and help new ideas take flight. As our reach continues to grow, we hope you’ll engage with us, too. Help plant the seeds of Creative Empowerment in the lives of youth. Let’s make Partners for Youth Empowerment’s next chapter the best one yet.