Our Work

Community Healing Education & Recovery

Beginning in 2006, with funding from the Ford Foundation, IWES engaged core groups of community leaders who ‘lived and worked’ the disaster to not only identify mental health needs in their target population, but also to be more aware of their own need for healing and recovery. In response to the increasing prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression in the city of New Orleans post-Katrina, the Community Healing Education &Recovery (CHER) program was developed with two intersecting goals:


  • To provide community education and outreach on post-trauma needs
  • To use Participatory Action Research (PAR) approaches to develop a multi-sector plan that addresses the need for recovery and healing


The first phase of CHER was a wellness retreat with leaders from a cross-section of community-based organizations that had been on the ground serving their target populations shortly after Katrina. These leaders were trained in post-disaster trauma issues as well as given the opportunity to reflect upon their own mental health needs and emotional resiliency. In the second phase, this core group assisted IWES in the planning, implementation, social marketing and facilitation of a series of wellness gatherings entitled “Red Tent Community Wellness Gatherings.”

Focus on Youth with Informed Parents and Children Together (FOY+ImPACT)

Focus on Youth with Informed Parents and Children Together (FOY+ImPACT) falls under the umbrella of YEAH-NOLA(Youth Eradicating AIDS & HIV- New Orleans, LA), IWES’ African-American focused youth HIV prevention initiativefunded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). YEAH-NOLA is a simultaneous implementation of two programs, MAP and FOY+ImPACT, adapted for the New Orleans community.

FOY+ImPACT is an HIV risk-reduction Evidence Based Intervention (EBI). FOY is an 8-session intervention delivered to small groups of adolescents aged 12-15, to assist them in attaining and developing the knowledge and skills needed to protect themselves from HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). The program works with existing adolescent friendship groups, which facilitates group cohesion and allows for open, meaningful discussions about sexual health. The lessons emphasize decision-making, goal and value setting, communication, negotiation, and healthy relationships. FOY uses games, discussions, videos, and other interactive tools to provide youth with information on abstinence and safer sex, HIV and STIs, teen pregnancy, contraception, and human development. Additionally, ImPACTis a parental component of the program which is comprised of a single-session intervention delivered to each youth and his/her parent or guardian. ImPACT sessions teach techniques and support adults in talking to their youth about HIV prevention and safer sex practices.

Healing is the Mission (HIM)

In recognition of the important role of males in parenting and contributing to positive youth development – protection, correction and connection – the “Healing Is the Mission (HIM) Consortium” was created. A recurrent theme amongst children served by IWES, both males and females, is the absence of males in their lives. In order to further explore this issue of ‘male-hunger’ and ‘father absence’ the Collective for Healthy Communities (CHC) convened a special Community Based Wisdom Circle with males to explore their role in overcoming adversity and promoting community resilience. Even though it was advertised for only 50 males by invitation only, over 70 men turned up, several arriving an hour before the program was slated to begin.

The significant themes that emerged from this gathering were:

  1. Pervasive levels of intra-familial traumatic childhood experiences

  2. Negative impacts of the absence of father in a male child early life on his ability to father later as an adult

  3. Male identity confusion and its impact on violence

  4. Vicious cycle of racial profiling and the criminal (in)justice system

HIM has evolved from this first gathering into a support group network that provides a safe space for a core group of African-American male leaders from varying disciplines that impact youth, to come together and work through their unique experiences and challenges as African-American males.



Healing Is the Revolution (HIR)

In June 2011, IWES was approached by the Chaka Khan Foundation and Essence Communications Inc. to embark upon a new initiative with the aim of enhancing the resiliency and overall well-being of 50 African American women in New Orleans to support their achievement of a life-enhancing goal. This initiative commenced during the 2011 Essence Music Festival with a Welcome Reception featuring Chaka Khan, a private empowerment session with Ms. Khan and author/inspirational speaker Ms. Iyanla Vanzant, and a VIP experience during Chaka’s performance at the Music Festival.


Over the course of the year between the two festivals the fifty women participated in monthly personal development workshops as well as bimonthly meetings with a mentor matched according to each woman’s individual goal. In the monthly meetings they explored and developed personal strength and resiliency and with their mentors they worked towards achievable steps toward their specific goals. Some examples of goals the women chose are first-time home ownership, furthering education, credit repair, and losing weight.


On July 7th, 2012 thirty-three women crossed the Essence Empowerment Experience stage at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center for the commencement ceremony of the 2011-2012 Superlife/H.I.R. Project. Before receiving their diplomas, participants received inspirational messages from IWES Founder & CEO, Denese Shervington, Essence Editor-In-Chief, Constance White, 10-time Grammy winner, Chaka Khan, and Verizon Wireless’ Vice President of Corporate Communications, Marquett Smith.


In continuing the partnership with Verizon Wireless and the Chaka Khan Foundation, the HIR project is currently utilizing small group interventions with past participants to deepen the emotional resiliency component of the initiative.

Healthy By Default REACH

In January 2014, IWES partnered with the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity on the CDC-funded Healthy-By-Default REACH project in order to increase healthy food choices and physical activity levels among African American youth in New Orleans. In New Orleans, African Americans are disproportionately affected by health issues related to insufficient nutrition and lack of exercise. Through Healthy By Default, IWES aims to institute environmental supports for physical activity and nutrient-rich food choices by making them more convenient and accessible for residents of low-resource neighborhoods. This eight month project will result in a community needs assessment for Orleans Parish, a community action plan informed by a multi-sectorial coalition of community organizations and leaders, and six months of program implementation in New Orleans schools and the community at large.

Healthy Teen Coalition

Since 2008, IWES has participated as a member of the Healthy Teen Coalition, a collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Education, Planned Parenthood of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Family Road of Greater Baton Rouge, and the Connect to Protect Coalition-New Orleans to advance advocacy efforts surrounding Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in Louisiana. CSE teaches that abstinence is the best method for avoiding Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy, but also teaches about effective utilization of condoms and contraception to reduce sexual health risks. IWES has developed fact sheets and advocacy toolkits and has hosted meetings and conducted conference presentations on the need and overall benefits of CSE in Louisiana. These tools have been used to educate the community-at-large, school districts, school administrators, teachers, doctors, nurses, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, students, state and local legislators and fellow public health professionals. These activities have also included dissemination of surveys to parents throughout the state to gauge levels of support for a mandate, engagement of political leaders at the local and state level, and the development of key partnerships with stakeholders to encourage the success of legislative bills when they are introduced.


IWES advocacy efforts have contributed significantly to the incremental changes in legislative support for CSE mandates, and the organization will continue to work towards increased opportunities for engagement with a diverse constituency that has historically been either silent or in opposition towards such policies, including the faith-based community and school leaders. Current Louisiana law regarding CSE allows local education agencies to develop their own policies regarding the implementation of sexual health curriculum and information in school settings. In accordance with state law, IWES has helped several New Orleans schools to develop their own policies on comprehensive sex education in order to allow for the implementation of IWES sexual health programs in school settings.


HerStory (I & II)

HerStory was a sub-campaign of the Social marketing Technology Outreach Program (STOP), supported through funding from Advocates For Youth’s Youth of Color Initiative. IWES worked with young women of color aged 13-18 at local high schools to identify issues they observed amongst their peers around the topics of Self-Esteem, Healthy Relationships, and Comprehensive Sexuality Education. Their sessions were filmed and the young women starred in a series of short webisodes, entitled Sexfesssionals, to inform their peers about current sexual health issues. The Sexfessionals are available on YouTube.

Media Advocates for Prevention (MAP)

Media Advocates for Prevention (MAP) falls under the umbrella of YEAH-NOLA(Youth Eradicating AIDS & HIV- New Orleans, LA), IWES’ African-American focused youth HIV prevention initiativefunded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). YEAH-NOLA is a simultaneous implementation of two programs, MAP and FOY+ImPACT, adapted for the New Orleans community.


MAP is a CDC-funded adaptation of the Community PROMISE DEBI intervention. MAP is a youth development program that integrates media literacy and production, community outreach, and peer education to promote HIV risk reduction and testing among youth of color. MAP works with a core group of Peer Advocates (PAs) aged 15-18, to develop HIV prevention messages for youth in the New Orleans metro area which the PAs distribute via print materials, sexual health kits known as “MAP Kits,” social networking, and new media. MAP PAs also engage and educate youth through everyday interactions and venue-based and virtual outreach. IWES recognizes that young people are integral in the development and implementation of youth programming and incorporates PAs’ input and leadership in all stages of MAP. MAP media and resources can be found online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


If you or someone you know is interested in receiving HIV testing, please visit one of our partners:


St John #5/Camp ACE

3829 Hamburg Street (7th Ward)

FREE HIV testing and condoms; no parental consent needed if 13+

(504) 283-7378


Brotherhood, Inc.

2714 Canal Street, Suite 503 (Mid-City)

FREE HIV testing and condoms; no parental consent needed if 13+

(504) 566-7955


Priority Health Care

4700 Wichers Drive, Suite 300 (Marrero)

FREE HIV testing and condoms; no parental consent needed if 13+

(504) 309-6057


Check out your school to see if it has a School Based Health Center that offers free HIV testing and other health resources.


New Orleans East Solutions in Synergy (NOESIS)

In July of 2013, IWES was one of three national recipients of the Well Community Project supported by the Kellogg Foundation. IWES has partnered with the Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans (VAYLA-NO) and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ) and is supported by the New Orleans Health Department in this endeavor. This 14-month project will engage community groups, neighborhood associations and schools in the New Orleans East area to promote personal and collective healing. IWES has identified VAYLA as a community asset and is strengthening this partnership to enhance some of the work that they do with youth and families. The priority wellness and resilience areas that NOESIS will focus on are: cultural and historical resilience, social resilience and psychological resilience.

Raising Women’s Voices (RWV)

Raising Women’s Voices (RWV)is a national initiative that works to make sure women’s voices are heard in the health reform debate and that women’s concerns are addressed by policy makers who develop national and state health reform plans. Raising Women’s Voices was founded by the Avery Institute for Social Change, the National Women’s Health Network and the MergerWatch Project (an affiliate of Community Catalyst). IWES was the Louisiana Regional RWV Coordinator, and placed a priority on inviting women to share their experiences navigating the health care system and advocating for the health care they need.These health needs include:

  • Women’s health care across their lifespan
  • Comprehensive reproductive health care
  • Pre-natal care
  • Maternity care
  • Primary and preventative services
  • Acute care and chronic care
  • Dental care
  • Mental health care

REACH Across the Aisle Initiative

IWES received a one year grant from AIDS United Southern REACH. Through this project, IWES is able to enhance and expand work related to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), gender-based and sexual violence awareness, and advocacy. The goals of the project include: increasing and diversifying support and advocacy for CSE within and outside of school systems by focusing on the role of CSE as a part of overall health education; increasing advocacy efforts for policies that address sexual and gender-based violence; and advocating for CSE mandates for public school systems in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas.

School-Based Health Center (SBHC) Community Engagement Project

The School-Based Health Center(SBHC) Community Engagement Project is a youth health advocacy and leadership development program implemented in partnership with the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) School Health Connection Program. IWES works with community stakeholders (i.e. youth, parents, school administrators & faculty, SBHC staff, etc.) to increase the utilization of school-based health centers and to promote sustainability of the centers through research, advisory committees, and youth advocacy trainings and activities.


Post- Katrina, the health care and educational systems remain in crisis. While the number of uninsured and under-insured has grown exponentially, the public health care system remains ill-equipped to meet a growing need for accessible and affordable healthcare services. IWES firmly supports the position of the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care (NASBHC) that in a time of crisis, school based health centers take their work a step further to respond to individual, school and community needs, providing quality, accessible and affordable health care services and resources to students and their families.


School-Based Health Centers are currently located and available at the following Orleans Parish schools:


Sexual and Reproductive Health Advocacy Project (SRHAP)

IWES created the Sexual & Reproductive Health and Advocacy Project (SRHAP) to engage marginalized communities, particularly women of color and youth, in activities that promote a transformative sexual and reproductive health and justice movement. Such activities serve to increase access to the social, economic, political, mental, and spiritual resources and opportunities needed to live whole healthy lives, free of control, exploitation and regulation. The SRHAP initiative engages key community representatives and organizations in advocacy efforts that:


  • emphasize women’s sexual and reproductive health needs (including comprehensive sexual education)
  • enhance the mental health and wellness of women and girls
  • empower residents to participate in community rebuilding efforts by advocating on their own behalf


By participating in policy discussions and providing educational trainings to New Orleans residents, SRHAP works to broaden the base of community members equipped with sexual and reproductive health knowledge, advocacy, and activism skills.



Soccer for Success

The IWES Soccer for Success program is a sports-based youth development initiative that uses soccer as a tool to combat childhood obesity and promote healthy lifestyles amongst youth. The program is funded and supported by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, and serves 300 children in the Greater New Orleans area. The Soccer for Success program is built upon four components: physical activity; nutrition; mentorship; and family engagement.

The Social marketing Technology Outreach Program (STOP)

The Social marketing Technology Outreach Program (STOP) was a social marketing campaign supported by AIDS United, launched as an enhancement to the Media Advocates for Prevention program. The campaign promoted HIV risk-reduction among African American and Latino youth aged 13-24 in New Orleans. STOP worked with a Core Group of youth who received specialized training in social marketing and communications to create a multimedia campaign focused on their peers. The STOP campaign developed short films and PSAs available on YouTube and social media sites and distributed sexual health kits called “STOP kits” promoting safer sex as a form of insurance that protected one from unwanted STIs, pregnancy, and emotional distress.


Urban Initiatives Project

In June 2013, IWES received funding from the National Institute for Reproductive Health’s (NIRH) Urban Initiative to develop and work with a youth and multi-sectoral coalition to promote comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) among key community stakeholders. The goal of the coalition is to create a positive shift in attitudes regarding CSE and to build the capacity of the New Orleans City Council and the Orleans Parish School Board to develop and implement policies and resolutions in New Orleans by the end of May, 2014.