HALO supports orphanages across the globe

HALO supports orphanages across the globe
Michelle Brooks [email protected]
PUBLICATION: Jefferson City News-Tribune (MO)


DATE: March 6, 2009

Page: 7
Arafat Kayiira painted his favorite jackfruit tree depicted beside a common Ugandan home with a water buffalo nearby.

“That’s definitely what Uganda looks like,” said Kristen Vogel, who works with Kayiira’s orphanage in the west African nation.

But for orphans like this 12-yearold boy, just having access to the art supplies and being given the encouragement to express himself are luxuries many children in his country don’t have.

The HALO (Helping Art Liberate Orphans) Foundation, founded by Jefferson City High School (JCHS) alumna Rebecca Welsh supports orphanages around the world.

And on March 13, many works from those orphanages will be available at the HALO Artreach Auction.

Welsh, daughter of Joe and Joyce Neuenswander, founded HALO in June 2005 after students in her Kansas City martial arts class were inspired to host an art auction to raise money for a Mexican orphanage.

Along with fellow JCHS graduate Lacy Voight, who serves as program director, Welsh has grown the organization from its simple beginnings.

Orphanages in Mexico, India, Uganda, Kenya, Nicaragua, India, Cambodia, Vietnam and the United States are provided with food, water, shelter, clothing, education and art therapy. Vogel, also a JCHS alumna, currently works at the Ugandan orphanages.

“I didn’t buy into it until I saw it first hand,” Vogel said of the impact of art therapy.

In such an impoverished lifestyle, art is one of the first luxuries to be discarded.

“It’s not in schools, either,” Vogel said. “They don’t learn expression. And they don’t talk about intense things.”

So using crayons or other drawing materials, the children are able to safely communicate through their artwork, she said.

“They’re not used to talking about their feelings; art helps with that,” Vogel said.

The art therapy produces several of the auction pieces, including wood carvings and jewelry.

“It’s so fun to watch those things go at auction,” Welsh said. “People see the value in the story behind the painting.”

Some of those stories include Kayiira, one of Vogel’s favorites because of his compassion. Vogel once faced a huge disappointment and Kayiira wrapped an arm around her and encouraged her to stay positive.

Hamzah Sserwada, whose drawing is on pink paper, lived on the streets for five years until HALO found him, which eventually gave him the opportunity to study in the United Kingdom.

And Antanansi Kaggwa, an intelligent 16 year old, discovered his mother missing while being separated from his brother for some time. But HALO recently helped reunite them.

TaNea’ Graves, owner of the G2 Gallery, has been inspired by such stories through HALO’s efforts.

Graves loves art and has been concerned for international orphans since her youth. HALO presented the opportunity for her to get involved, by hosting a fundraising event at her gallery and catering venue, she said.

“We don’t speak their language, but we can appreciate their art,” Graves said.

If the turnout at the local art auction March 13 shows good response, Welsh said she would like to see a Jefferson City branch of HALO that would partner with a specific orphanage or project.

“It will be great to share with our community what’s going on throughout the world; I feel blessed to do that,” Welsh said.

The areas that HALO is in “have in-your-face needs,” Welsh said. “Half the mission with HALO is to raise awareness.

“I feel HALO is a bridge between the fortunate and the unfortunate.”

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Caption: Stephen Brooks/News Tribune

This wood craving from Uganda and other art made by children will be part of the HALO art auction.

Stephen Brooks/News Tribune

Kristen Vogel, left, and TaNea’ Graves, event coordinator for the G2 Gallery at 102 East High Street, go over some of the art for the HALO art auction. The art work was done overseas in the orphanages.

Submitted photo

Kristen Vogel smiles as she poses for a picture with some the orphans she works with in Uganda.