[PEOPLE IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD] Once A Toy Drive, But Now So Much More
Windsor Square resident Oston Jemba Madengue is a very busy man.
Along with his college studies and a part-time job, he is the president and founder of Jemba Against Violence, an organization that over the last nine years has collected toys for families affected by domestic violence.
The seed for his organization was planted back when Madengue was a 5th grader at St. James’ Episcopal School.
At the time, his mother Colette Amin—who is currently an alternate on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council—was part of a parents association that collected toys for the Jenesse Center, a domestic violence shelter in South Los Angeles. The association collected about 100 toys that year.
“The next year, I decided to take it upon myself,” said Madengue, who is now 20. “I let every class know and handed out flyers and got my friends involved. That year, we collected 500 or 600 toys.”
Madengue took what he learned from that sixth grade effort in 2007 and brought it with him when he enrolled at Oakwood School. Working with the community service department at Oakwood, he placed collection boxes in both the upper and lower divisions of the school.
“The lower school provided three or four cars of toys,” said Madengue. It was amazing.”
As the years went by, Madengue expanded his organization by asking local businesses to carry his collection boxes, by getting Nederlander Concerts to make donations and by adding Project Peacemakers—a group that offers support services to victims of domestic violence—as a beneficiary.
“This year, we will [add] Su Casa which is a women’s shelter in Montebello,” said Mandengue. “We’ll also be working with the Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Council to reach out to more women.”
Madengue’s continuous work with Jemba Against Violence was put on hold temporarily when he attended John Cabot University in Rome for a year. But even in Rome, he said, he reached out to victims of domestic violence.
“There was a women’s shelter very near to the campus,” said Madengue. “A group of [us] would go over there and teach them English.”
Madengue has since returned to Los Angeles and has made Jemba Against Violence—now a three-person operation—an official non-profit that can accept in-kind and tax favorable donations.
“We want to expand and do more than the toy drive,” said Madengue. “We want the organization to be a resource, to help women move out of cycles of abuse.”
Plans in the works for 2017 include an event with the Aella Collection, which will bring office-appropriate clothing to Madengue’s clients. In the future, Madengue would also like to offer business etiquette classes and bring in speakers to advise women on the job market.
The need for the services that Madengue would like to provide is real.
According to Olivia Rodriguez, executive director of the Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Council, as of mid-September, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept. filed 6,844 domestic violence reports this year.
In addition, more than 14,000 calls were made to her organization’s hotline between January and August. In 2015, Rodriguez said, almost two-thirds of the 13,643 homeless women in the county reported that they were victims of domestic violence.
Over the years, Madengue has received several awards for his work, including the 2014 President’s Volunteer Service Award, signed by President Obama. Just last October, he was also recognized for his work by the Los Angeles County Domestic Council.
He has also received accolades from those who have collaborated with him. Vanessa Kromer, a vice president at Nederlander Concerts, said she has worked with Madengue for over five years.
“I’ve always been really impressed with him,” said Kromer. “I think that he carries himself in such a professional manner…. It’s an honor to support him every year.”
Bernita Walker, executive director of Project Peacemakers, has known Madengue since he was 14. She said that her low-income clients truly appreciate Madengue’s work.
“He’s an outstanding young man and what he’s doing is very beneficial to our agency,” said Walker.
Currently enrolled at Los Angeles City College, Madengue is studying social work and non-profit law through the lens of how it will help his cause. In addition, he has attended training sessions at the Los Angeles County Domestic Council.
“This is the line of work I want to go into,” said Madengue. “I feel this is the one area that I thrive in and I really enjoy taking this idea and putting it into action.”
Ultimately, Madengue envisions creating a campus for victims of domestic violence that would offer services and shelter.
However, his current focus is on this year’s toy drive.
Collection boxes will be at Goorin Bros. hat shop on Larchmont Boulevard, where Madengue works part-time, as well as other locations around the city from December 1st to December 24th.
Monetary donations will also be accepted on the Jemba Against Violence website said Madengue, and will be put towards items on the toy drive wish list.
For more information on volunteer opportunities, box locations and suggested donations for the Jemba Against Violence toy drive, go to jemba.org