HALO Stories: Episode 1 "Marjai"
Nineteen-year-old HALO Youth Ziere is featured in the HALO Short Film Documentary that premiered at the HALO Virtual Auction on Feb. 25.
Shared by HALO Founder Rebecca Welsh: “Ziere’s story of resilience is one that will capture hearts around the world. He was born with a heart defect and doctors told his young mother he would not make it but for a few days. Ziere didn’t talk until age 3 and walk until age 4. He survived countless surgeries during his childhood and was called a ‘walking miracle.’ Ziere was never allowed to play sports because of his condition, but it remained one of his dreams.”
Ziere was brought to the HALO Boys Program that focuses on providing the foundation of a family for children without one. Through mentorship, tutoring, and connections to community resources, boys in the program are given a chance to reach their full potential. As part of the Boys Program, HALO started its first AAU Basketball team in 2021 called HALO Heat. This team is for kids with all different abilities, many of whom have never had the chance to play on a sports team.
“Ziere was thrilled when he was invited to be part of the team,” Welsh said. “He suited up for every game and although he could only play for a minute or two at a time, the entire gym would light up when he played in a game. Ziere became an instant HALO super star on the court.”
Ziere said his proudest moment was winning a third-place medal in one of the tournaments. He and the other boys at HALO have formed a brotherhood that is much like a family, and it has been their safe-haven through tough times.
“Ziere had a difficult year. His mother passed away unexpectedly in March of 2021, which has been absolutely heartbreaking for him. Ziere continues to defy the odds. He was hospitalized with COVID-19 and survived. Ziere will soon be placed on a heart transplant list. Through it all, Ziere continues to be the brightest light in any room, bringing hope and laughter to everyone around him. It is our goal to shower Ziere with love and share his story with the world so that others can be inspired by his positive energy.”
HALO launched its first short documentary episode that will become a series to amplify young voices of homelessness. The first short episode is called Marjai.
“HALO provides housing, healing and education to thousands of homeless and at-risk children around the world,” said HALO Founder and CEO Rebecca Welsh. “Marjai’s powerful story is one of many we can share of HALO kids who had one chance to make a change, one person to turn to or one volunteer who stepped up. Just like that, their life’s trajectory positively changed forever.”
Marjai joined HALO when she was 10 years old while staying in a homeless shelter and participating in HALO therapeutic art programs.
“HALO caught me at just the right time. It was definitely the first step for me in being more open to love and the first safe space for me to really just be me,” said HALO Alum Marjai. “I’m so grateful that I got to experience HALO at a young age.”