Growing up in New York City as a young child from a broken home, Pito Azurdia remembers the abuse, the physical pain of beatings and the psychological agony of abandonment. “My Father hated me with a passion,” Azurdia recalled. “I was beaten with baseball bats, scalded with hot water, scratched and kicked. The neighbors heard everything. No one ever investigated.” Birthday parties, graduation celebrations and holiday festivities were for other kids, not Azurdia, who would know only detention centers, foster homes and jail. He grew into an angry, embittered and easily enraged young man.
As a young father, Azurdia found Fathers & Families Support Center (FFSC) after he learned that his 12 year old daughter was being abused by her mother. “The courts wanted me to take care of my daughter and have full custody but I needed to learn how to be a parent first. That’s how I found FFSC,” Azurdia said.
During FFSC’s six-week Family Formation program, not only did he learn how to become an involved, responsible parent, Azurdia began to release years of repressed anger and emotions in a healthy way through FFSC’s What’s Up group therapy sessions. “Staff really got to know me because of all the tears I shed in that group every day. It was my only outlet,” Azurdia said. “I didn’t want to repeat with my kids what my father did to me.”
To support his daughter, FFSC helped Azurdia find work at a local restaurant. “On the day of the interview, 9/11 hit and I had family in New York. The owner of the restaurant had family there, too, so we comforted each other and bonded instantly over the tragedy. They hired me almost immediately,” Azurdia recalled.
Finally on the right path, Azurdia’s life began to flourish. Now at 45, a father of four and married for 16 years, Azurdia is a mentor and leader in his church. Every weekend, he volunteers with his son as ambassadors for the Adopt-A-Block program, an outreach program sponsored by his church. “My son, Carlito and I go out to homes, knock on doors and speak to families who are going through hard times,” Azurdia explained. “I talk with all the angry men and fathers out there because I was once one of them. I tell them there’s a better way and share my experience so they don’t feel so alone.”