Support Covenant House New Jersey and you have the incredible opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of vulnerable youth. Edego Gayle, a devoted member of our team, exemplifies the unwavering commitment and compassion that defines our organization. Your support will enable Edego and the rest of our staff to continue providing a safe haven and critical support to young people facing insurmountable challenges.
Edego’s journey and dedication are a testament to the transformative power of our work. Support Covenant House New Jersey and we can help create opportunities for unhoused youth and survivors of human trafficking to access safe housing and have the support they deserve to reach their full potential. We can ensure that no young person is turned away, and we can continue to positively impact the lives of those who walk through our doors. Your generous support can truly change the course of these young lives and offer them hope and a brighter future. Join us in making a lasting impact on the lives of these deserving youth and become a beacon of hope for those in need.
A Beacon of Hope: A Conversation with Edego On Her Journey at CHNJ as interviewed by Avery Sawyer
Avery: What brought you to the work?
Edego: Getting into the profession wasn’t by chance, but me finding Covenant House was by chance, and it’s a chance I am very happy came along. My desire to help people and make an impact on others came from my stepmom, who was a registered nurse both here and back home in Jamaica. Growing up with her, I observed her being a very caring person and always putting herself out there to help others; even going to the extreme at times but that’s just who she is. She gives all she’s got and thinks of herself after.
Growing up and seeing her work with people as well as experiencing the reaction of the people she works with to her commitment to them, for me always moved me. She works primarily with the older population but my population is youth; I have learned to connect with the younger folk, not babies, they are a little too young but I fit right in the middle.
Avery: What keeps you connected to the work here at Covenant House New Jersey?
Edego: What keeps me connected to the work, from beginning to end, is understanding a young person coming through our doors often is coming with their own issues, not knowing what they are going to face. I take pleasure in trying to get them comfortable as soon as they walk through our doors. Once they feel that sense of comfort, it is my job to now connect with this young person to figure out where they are and how best I can help them meet whatever goals they have in mind. What keeps me most connected is knowing there’s always someone that needs help and we here at Covenant do our best to help, and even if it doesn’t go the way we envisioned it, I remain confident that if we have 1000 youth that come through our hands, impacting each one is the goal, but changing the life of just 1 is still a win.
Avery: Do you ever find it hard to remain connected, primarily when things don’t progress ideally?
Edego: No, I don’t find it hard to stay connected because I learn as I grow in the job. I feel at this moment it’s like second nature to me, but I am always growing and learning. If I had to say, the hardest part of my job that I am still working on is dealing with the moments where a youth who comes in for help and something happens where they just are not getting it, and they are asked to leave before making their goal. It’s extremely hard because the thought in my head is, they wouldn’t have walked through our doors if they didn’t need our help. To see youth walk out the way they came, that’s the toughest part of the job for me. I work very hard to ensure that doesn’t happen to youth.
Sometimes it feels like Covenant House is the only safe haven for unhoused youth in Newark; after someone has transitioned from our program and we’re trying to assist them, getting “no”s from everywhere is such a tough heartbreak. We are left with having to tell this young person who is still standing in front of us “We don’t have a place to put you.” Over the 9 years I’ve been here, conveying that message has not gotten easier. It is still the hardest part of the job for me.
Avery: What would you tell a young Edego just starting out at Covenant House New Jersey?
Edego: Coming to Covenant House is like another phase of college for me. I’ve learned a lot, and one of the greatest things I’ve learned is not to be judgmental. It is something that I walk with over the years; if I feel I will be judgmental, I catch myself and say “Don’t do that, just because it’s easy for you doesn’t make it easy for this young person.” That would be my biggest takeaway over the years, not to be judgmental.
Avery: Is there a moment you specifically recall that you feel typifies your mission or that reminded you why you were here?
Edego: Absolutely, I have many that I can think of, any 1 of my 1000 that I have worked with can have a moment, but there is 1 in particular. I think about this client who came from the hospital, and he asked for me. I met him at the door, and he was going through a really rough time, he had just lost his mom and he was the only kid from his mother. We had many talks, and he was a brilliant young man, who held true to his desires and plans.
He went from here to Nancy’s Place and then on to complete college; he currently is in the process of getting ready for med school. That is one of those moments that holds me true to the mission, seeing the success of our youth is a reminder that our place in their journey is to simply help them be who they always had the potential to be.
In my early years, I was urged to take vacation time, primarily because I never did. I found joy in my work and the fact that my team really looks up to me the way they do.
Avery: Tell me more about what it’s like to be looked up to by not only the youth but also the staff as someone who has really carved out a space for themselves in this space.
Edego: I truly appreciate people for accepting me for who I am and really making me feel appreciated and needed. It truly does feel good to be valued because I don’t think they’re faking it, I think they really see me for who I am and what I do, and the cool thing about working at Covenant House is, my supervisors over the years have always respected me and have never been afraid to challenge me. I am only human and I make mistakes, and the only way to learn is to make mistakes at times, and I am grateful that I have always been able to have staff that believe in me and challenge me to get better.
Avery: Lastly, while we hopefully never have to imagine a world where Edego isn’t here with us at Covenant House, what does it look like for Edego to leave knowing she left no stone unturned?
Edego: I’d like to leave knowing I’ve given this place and these young people my all. I would say in my career I gave Covenant House New Jersey the best years of my life, and the young people who have passed through, I’d like to believe I have impacted them positively in one way or another. Each time one comes I’d like for them to know they came to the right place.