Georgia’s Thomas County 4-H is saddling up to assist at-risk teenagers in Philadelphia in becoming Concrete Cowboys by providing the program with supplies.
About 10 years ago, Malik Divers and some friends built an enclosure for horses on an abandoned parking lot in west Philadelphia. He then bought some horses and started the Concrete Cowboys project with the goal of reaching local, at-risk teenagers. His efforts have gotten attention from news outlets like NBC and People magazine.
When Thomas County’s University of Georgia Cooperative Extension 4-H agent Cindy Wynn learned about the Concrete Cowboys, her interest was piqued.
“Malik is a retired construction worker but he should have been a 4-H leader, because without even really knowing it, he’s teaching some of the same essential elements we teach in 4-H,” Wynn said. “He’s playing a really vital role in his community by assisting at-risk teens through his equine program. He’s teaching mastery, belonging, independence, and these teens are learning skills that will help them later on.”
Wynn contacted Divers to see if there was anything her south Georgia 4-H program could do to help.
“When I was talking to Malik, I said it was very obvious from the video clip that they were in desperate need of some equipment,” Wynn said. “You could tell they were doing the best with what they had, but he said they could use absolutely anything.”
The Pennsylvania-based group needed saddles, so Wynn and a group of 4-H members started a fund-drive to secure some supplies.
“Within 24 hours we had two Western saddles,” Wynn said. “We were able to collect many items related to horse care: brushes, buckets, lead ropes, holsters, horse blankets, anything you would need if you owned a horse.”
Other Georgia counties heard about the Concrete Cowboys and began donating to the program. When school started last fall, members of the Concrete Cowboys needed school supplies, so south Georgia 4-H members gathered book bags and school supplies to send.
“It taught a lesson in generosity. It’s a unique opportunity to practice service to others,” Wynn said.
To donate tack items or funds to assist with shipping items to Concrete Cowboys, contact Wynn at the Thomas County Extension office at 229-225-4130.
(Julia Rodriguez is an intern with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.)