This Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating two very important HALO staff members who provide the foundation of a family for our kids. In Part Two, Aubony Chalfant, the Kansas City Program Facilitator talks about her journey with HALO and what this family means to her.
What drew me to HALO initially was that it combined my two loves – art as healing and social service. I also really love working with “at-risk” or trauma populations, especially teens and young adults.
I decided to volunteer with HALO, and work with the kids directly, because I knew I wanted to leave my career as an art professor and go back to school for mental health or social service, so I thought I better put my money where my mouth was. Also, I know how much art played a huge role for me as a kid/teen in coping with my own struggles and emotions, so I was excited for that opportunity.
Over the years, I’ve realized that we are that foundation of a family because we get the phone calls or texts or visits when a kid gets a job, or goes through a break up, or passes a class, or just feels overwhelmed with their situation and wants someone to care.
A foundation of a family is that feeling of a place or person you can always go back to – in good times and bad. For some people, that is their family of origin or the house they grew up in. But for a lot of our kids, that isn’t an option. So they come back to HALO, and that looks a lot of different ways. Over the years, I’ve realized that we are that foundation of a family because we get the phone calls or texts or visits when a kid gets a job, or goes through a break up, or passes a class, or just feels overwhelmed with their situation and wants someone to care. My favorite days at HALO are when, out of the blue, I get a text or call from a kid that says “What’s for dinner at group tonight?” or “What are you all doing for Thanksgiving?” or whatever. I especially like that from kids we maybe haven’t seen in awhile, because that shows me that they know, no matter how much time has passed, they can always come “home.”
Connecting with our kids is something I have to be really mindful of, because when you come from trauma, connection usually means pain. So I never assume I know anything about any of our kids, and I wait for them to let me know, in whatever way, that they are okay with me being in their space. No matter what has happened or how they feel or act at HALO, I offer unconditional positive regard and empathy, and let them choose how they want to interact with me or the art project or HALO in general, if at all. If all I offer a child for an hour is space to be safe and breathe, I know I’ve done a good job in breaking their cycle of having no voice or choice with what’s happening to them. And being the keeper of the snacks helps, too.
We are breaking the cycle of homeless and trauma and abandonment, but really they are, too.
We have a HALO youth that I have known since she was 9 or 10 years old, and she is now 17. I have watched her come to almost every HALO class offered over the years, processing her trauma thru various art mediums and outlets. In the beginning, she was usually angry, short-tempered, and didn’t want to listen to me or any other adults. Which makes sense because adults were the source of all of her trauma – I was another strange adult she couldn’t trust, and wouldn’t let close for anything. But month after month, HALO was a consistent, safe place where the adults maybe weren’t so bad. I would pick her up and drop her off with the HALO van, and I usually relished those moments because I knew I’d have uninterrupted time to see how she was doing and get to know her a little better. And then one day, when she was probably 13 or 14, she hugged me as she got out of the van. And I about fell out of the driver’s seat. This was a girl who didn’t want anyone touching her, period. And today, she is always the first one to lean in for a hug as she gets out of my car or we leave a restaurant. What I have seen is how that reliable, loving foundation of a family promotes healing and connection, for kids that need it the most. And now, she helps me teach classes at HALO, on healthy relationships, empathy, and using spoken word poetry as a form of healing. And she is better at my job than I am! So I am happily awaiting the day she comes and asks for my job. Full circle moments like that are the goal of HALO – investing time and love into our kids creates healing and connection, but also inspires them to help others heal, too. We are breaking the cycle of homeless and trauma and abandonment, but really they are, too.