Activist wins $25K peace prize for work in San Francisco Mission district 

click to enlarge Ray Balberan - RAY BALBERAN
  • Ray Balberan
  • Ray Balberan

“Uncle” Ray Balberan, a 67-year-old Mission resident, is one of three people receiving a $25,000 California Peace Prize from The California Wellness Foundation for his extensive work with at-risk youths in the Mission. He will be honored Nov. 17.

What does it mean to you to win this award? It feels good. It means a lot to me that someone from the Mission neighborhood, like myself, gets recognized for working in the Mission district. We’re all coming up. The community is doing something for itself and I just feel good about it.

What has changed most about the Mission since you were a young man? It’s very different. When I was growing up, there was work in the community. Now, the industry in these neighborhoods is cocaine and speed or something else. It’s so prevalent nowadays. It’s bad.

What makes your approach toward at-risk youth different from others? We emphasize that it’s their plan and that they have power over that plan. A lot of kids fail programs because they’re about “You have to do this. You have to do that.” The best way is to work with them so they can change and modify it.

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