“We’re super excited. The reality that kids are using these walls is amazing to us, but at the same time, it means there are kids whose needs aren’t being met at home, and it all touches your heart.” – Erinn Burch, Executive Director of UWENM.
Something new has quietly been making an impact in schools across Eastern New Mexico.
The No Worries Wall (NWW) is a project from the United Way of Eastern New Mexico (UWENM) to help high school teenagers meet their basic needs. This project has been so successful, that requests are even coming in from elementary schools. Erinn Burch, the Executive Director of UWENM said, “This project succeeded a little bit faster than we expected.”
What is a No Worries Wall?
New Mexico has high levels of poverty and families that struggle to meet all their needs. This can cause stress and anxiety for teens who aren’t able to get all their needs met, so the No Worries Walls are being installed in schools.
Individual schools decide where to place the NWWs, usually in a nondescript place near where there is a high level of student traffic. The NWWs are stocked with things like deodorant, toothbrushes, sanitary products, and more. As their website says, anxiety can be tough for teens whose households can’t afford all the essentials they need for everyday life.
Robyn Costa is a Board member with UWENM, and the brains behind the No Worries Wall project.
“I was on Facebook one day and saw people collecting items for schools in different places, and I had always assumed schools just did that,” Costa said, “I was moved by the students in need, so my daughter and I started collecting items for her school. It all started there.”
As time went on, Costa saw an example online of something similar to their No Worries Wall, and when she saw it and thought of her and her daughter’s work, the idea clicked. It was then that she took it to Executive Director Erinn Burch.
“I took it to the board,” Burch said, “and within 24 hours it was approved!”
No Worries Walls were installed in one school, then two, and then as word got around, all the school districts in Eastern New Mexico wanted their own NWW.
How it works
“The beauty of this is it has been working great,” Burch said. “If a student has a need, they don’t need to ask permission or fill out a form. They go the NWW and take what they need.” She added that there has been no abuse, no one taking things they don’t need, and they have gotten reports that they are making a positive impact in the schools.
“A school counselor told us that a teen they knew had been suffering from anxiety, and had become more calm and focused in class as she has been able to take care of her own needs,” Burch said.
“This echoes what we’ve heard from other schools,” she added. “When a student is able to meet their own needs, it’s good for them and the school community.
Where they are now, and funding
As of November 4th, Burch said 18 No Worries Walls are in the following school districts: Logan, San Jon, Melrose, Portales (3 sites), and Clovis (12 sites). Walls are being prepared for Grady, House, Floyd, Dora, Tucumcari (3 sites), and Ft. Sumner.
“Pattern Energy has been a wonderful partner for us,” Burch said. “Their willingness to help fund this project is making a big difference in kids’ lives.”
One of Pattern Energy’s core values is supporting the communities we are a part of, and we’re happy to play a part supporting the No Worries Wall Project.
Burch said they are still fundraising due to increased demand from schools, and said there are numerous ways for people to help. They can donate cash directly that will be used for more NWWs, or they can donate supplies for the walls as well. Details are available on their website.
“When this all started, we had no idea how much need there was,” Costa said. “Through the course of this project, we’ve found out that in many schools, school nurses have been dipping into their own pockets to pay for things for students, even in elementary schools.”
Costa said word of the program’s success spread to elementary schools, and said there are, “young kids in need just like teens, so we’ve got more work to do!”
Burch added, “We’re super excited. The reality that kids are using these walls is amazing to us, but at the same time it means there are kids whose needs aren’t being met at home, and it all touches your heart.”