A Christian youth program, the Brigade movement began in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1883. Its founder, Sir William Alexander Smith, struck on the idea when he was a Sunday school teacher trying to engage a group of older boys, who — feeling too old for classes and aimless — were bored, restless and unruly. Smith, himself a volunteer soldier, decided to organize them into a volunteer youth brigade, with discipline and religious instruction at its core. To keep the interest of the boys, he combined it with band, drills, games, sports, hymns and recreational activities. Then, as now, the Brigade sought to promote the habits of reverence, discipline, obedience, and self-respect.
The Brigade established the first voluntary, uniformed youth association in the world and popularized youth camping. Many youth organizations today trace their roots to the Brigade movement.
In 2016, the Brigade Youth Program of Brockton officially affiliated with the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade International, a global network with thousands of members worldwide.
When Reverend Moses ’Kunle Sowale came to Brockton in 2010, he discovered families “struggling with their young people” and youth searching for direction.
“I thought, what can I do for them?” Reverend Moses said. He bought a piano, ordered pizza, and started a youth ministry. “We kept playing piano and ordering pizza,” Reverend Moses said. “Our numbers grew, and I thought again, what can we do for them?”
The reverend remembered how The Boys’ and The Girls’ Brigade in Nigeria offered him purpose and belonging. Wanting to give that gift to Brockton youth, he set out to create a program to celebrate each child’s individuality while building spirituality, leadership, and community.
The Brigade Youth Program in Brockton began in June 2011. Working with educators, parents, spiritual leaders, city officials and — so importantly— mentor volunteers, Reverend Moses developed an innovative, holistic program called the Individualized, Educational, Spiritual and Social Plan (IESSP).
At the center of the program’s philosophy, the IESSP calls on a circle of caring adults to guide children following individualized plans to tackle challenges, nurture uniqueness, and bring out each child’s inner song so he or she can greet the world as a confident, caring, spiritually-centered adult.