M.A.D.E. Institute Opportunity for Everyone

In 2010, Leon Abdullah El-Alamin and Timothy Abdul-Matin began the transition back to society after spending several years in prison. They came back to Flint with a new outlook on life. “I realized, during my incarceration, just how much damage my early lifestyle did on the community, my family, friends and myself,” says El-Alamin. “In prison, I transformed my thinking patterns and made the conscious decision to come back and be a positive advocate for my community.”

Both El-Alamin and Abdul-Matin immediately encountered barriers. They had trouble getting housing, jobs and community acceptance, all due to their previous lives. They were denied entrance to schools and denied by multiple temp agencies. Through it all, the two friends remained positive. “We decided to attend council meetings and get involved with positive organizations. We started doing community clean-ups and tried to shake the stigma,” says El-Alamin. “It felt like we were still being sentenced. We understood that it wasn’t going to be easy and that we had to work and earn acceptance. Eventually, we realized that we were going to have to create our own opportunity.”

In 2014, El-Alamin founded the M.A.D.E. Institute, a 501c3 non-profit. “M.A.D.E. stands for Money, Attitude, Direction and Education,” he explains. “Our mission is to provide comprehensive programming for returning citizen population, at-risk youth and veterans in the areas of work-force development, transitional housing, urban farming and entrepreneurship. The goal is to be a one-stop shop for people who are coming back into society to get their life back and become contributing community members.” “It’s what our world needs,” says Program Manager, Abdul-Matin. “M.A.D.E. Institute is about lifestyle change. One thing that I realized when I was serving my time, is that the way I dealt with adversity was different. I had been taught the wrong way to deal with hard times. You can reverse that by teaching and cultivating better life skills.”

Since then, the two have moved forward and touched the lives of over 500 people in a positive way. “Each year in Genesee County, there can be between 200 and 500 people coming back to the area from prison, jail and so forth,” says El-Alamin. “We wanted to be proactive and provide some safety nets for these people.” Abdul-Matin echoes, “there is a need for community support groups for them. We just don’t have the capacity to help them all. It hurts when you see someone who you could help, but you just can’t get to them.”

Vocational Training

The Institute partners with Michigan Offender Success to identify those who will soon be released back into Flint and Genesee County. The program offers a Reentry Care Package that consists of personal hygiene components, up to three outfits, casual shoes and maybe work boots – it depends on the specific needs of the individual. M.A.D.E. also provides help to get a legal I.D., birth certificate or food stamps. “We created the care package because as soon as you come out of prison, if you don’t have any support, you basically have just the clothes on your back and your shoes,” says El-Alamin. “Often, you don’t have an I.D. or even transportation. We want to help eliminate any excuse an individual might have to get back on the wrong path.”

The main component of the M.A.D.E. program is the ten-phase life skills mentoring course – a peer-to-peer program that covers conflict resolution, anger management, financial literacy, parenting and more. In March 2018, M.A.D.E. opened their first transition house, made possible by a grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation, for those who have nowhere else to go. Since opening, the house has hosted 12 people. Six have completed the life skills program and are all gainfully employed. Of those 12, none have re-offended. Through a partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, a community garden was established at the house which, this summer, will include a hoop house. A training program is being developed to teach previously incarcerated individuals and at-risk youth about nutrition and the importance of healthy, fresh foods.

In addition, the Institute offers vocational skills training in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, Detroit Training Center and Michigan Works! Recently, the State provided funding for a class of 15 to undergo a six-week course in skilled trades. Enrollees received certifications in lead and asbestos abatement, OSHA 10, demolition, carpentry and window replacement and installation. Of the 15 enrollees, 13 are currently employed earning hourly wages up to $18. “Once we get funding, we create a curriculum that addresses the current needs of the area job market,” informs El-Alamin. “We are training them for a job that exists in our community and we work with contractors, unions and organizations to get them employed.” Abdul Matin adds, “one of our participants just got his Commercial Driver’s License and he’s on the road. This man made a complete lifestyle change. What better way to get him acclimated to society? He’s earning legal money, learning and building relationships. That’s what it’s about – creating opportunities.”

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