Sisy Mohorko of HopeGirlz
By Karen Castillo Farfán 03/08/2012
The vigil began at nightfall. The soft murmur of sad voices and cries filled the night air as the crowd grew. People held prayer candles with printed images of the Virgin of Guadalupe over the glass surface. In their hands were portraits of 18-year-old Juan Carlos Valadez, who was stabbed behind the FedEx store of Camarillo. The stabbing was gang-related.
Among the crowd of 100 or more is Sisy Mohorko of HopeGirlz, a youth-outreach and intervention program designed to help troubled girls find life outside gangs and drugs, and her father, the Rev. Edgar Mohorko, an expert in gang intervention. They were passing out peace fliers that share awareness and tips on gang prevention.
Sisy approached a tearing loved one and consoled her. She reminded her that she [Sisy] was there for them.
“I want to give them hope,” Sisy said. “They were angry. They were sad.”
The stabbing in Camarillo is marked as an unusual gang-related crime, impacting a community that rarely sees the bloodshed of retaliation. Sisy said gang crime is considered an Oxnard problem and to see it in Camarillo frightened many of the residents. Sisy hopes that by visiting these violent-incident crime scenes and offering her assistance, she can break the cycle of gang retaliation.
Sisy founded HopeGirlz under the umbrella of her father, the Rev. Mohorko, who co-founded HopeBoyz, an earlier outreach program for youth gang prevention. When she noticed an increase in young women associated with violent gang crimes, she developed the program.
“Some of the girls that were referred to me were exposing themselves in unhealthy manners and needed mentoring. Girls relate with me because I’m a woman. They see me like the big sister they need, someone who can understand their age group.”
Sisy said she believes the increase of young girls involved in gang-related incidents is coupled with troubled home life, lack of parental supervision and roles imposed on women by the media.
“These young girls see unrealistic iconic women in the media and they feel they must live up to it, and when they don’t meet these expectations they seek acceptance.”
Sisy said some teens begin gang activity as early as 11. Young girls are so vulnerable at that age, she said, that they allow themselves to be taken advantage of, making them more willing to do things they otherwise wouldn’t.
Periodically, or after gang-related incidents, Sisy makes door-to-door visits in neighborhoods where gang violence is prevalent. She passes out peace fliers and speaks to anyone wanting to make a change personally or for a loved one.
Sisy said she believes youth prevention programs are necessary. With parental support, they’ll be more effective. She said she fears that the hope she inspires in these young women will evaporate the moment they return to their troubled homes.
“Some of these girls have mothers who were once teen moms and who weren’t mature enough to raise a family.”
Once a week, she visits the Ventura County Juvenile Hall facility to talk to teens about turning their lives around. Although her focus is young women, she also provides guidance to young male gang members who are seeking change.
She never gives up on a teen. Sometimes they test her persistence by dismissing her cause as insignificant.
“They do this because they’re used to people not caring and giving up on them too quickly. When they see I’m not going anywhere, they began to trust me, and that is the best part.”
Sisy grew up admiring her father’s humanitarian work. For 25 years, he’s fed the homeless and become a leader to teens and kids. Naturally, she aspires to accomplish the same good in her own life.
“Knowing where my father came from and the work he does makes me hope I’m half of what he is. He broke the cycle of homelessness and violence and started his own cycle of outreach.”
Daily, Sisy’s door to the HopeGirlz’s office is open to anyone wanting to make a change and in need of help.
For more information on HopeGirlz, contact Sisy Mohorko at 201-7791 or go to www.pastoredgar.com.