Our History

Join Hands ESL was founded in 1990 to serve underprivileged children in East St. Louis. Initially focused solely on the children of East St. Louis through our Girls Club and Boys Club, over the years we have offered a variety of youth programs.

Recognizing, however, that the best way to help the children is to help their parents, in 2004 the mission of Join Hands ESL expanded to include a focus on women and children in our Family Mentoring Program.

In 2006, Join Hands ESL took the next step with our Alternative Education Program; realizing that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, Join Hands committed to provide an opportunity for mothers from our Family Mentoring Program to send their children to quality private schools known for their academic excellence.AboutUs2

In 2016, with the opening of the Ubuntu Center for Peace, we introduced our Dream Path Program. The Dream Path takes what we have learned over the years with our youth programs, Family and Teen Mentoring Programs and our Alternative Education Program and creates a simple pathway out of poverty for the young people of East St. Louis.  Relying on relationships, with a focus on education and everyone reaching their full potential, the Dream Path is for anyone who has a dream for their children to succeed in school and graduate from college.

AboutUs3Over the last 30 years, Join Hands has operated out of the homes, offices and cars of more than 400 volunteers, using space offered by community partners as needed. We are excited now, through the generosity of a wonderful donor, to have a home at the Ubuntu Center for Peace. The Ubuntu Center for Peace allows us to offer an oasis for our families, a space where we can truly be in solidarity with the people we serve, supporting them where they are at, standing with them in their needs.

We are a small, grassroots organization, that has simply tried to respond to needs as we find them.  We are an organization of people who are trying to respond to the needs we see. Relying primarily on private donations and volunteer power, with our more than 100 currently active volunteers, we do what we can. If you would like to join us, please contact us!