Check out part 2 of our Mother's Day series!
We spoke with HALO Kansas City Program Facilitator Alayna Howard about her role with HALO and what being a part of the HALO family means to her.
Q: What brought you to HALO and made you interested in this role?
A: I started as a volunteer in 2014. The first impression I had of HALO was our Kansas City Learning Center, and I was immediately excited to be part of something so great. If you haven't seen it, it's a bit of an older room with a lot of exposed pipes and ducts, which might usually have looked a little drab, but someone had painted all of them in bright oranges and greens and reds.
I could immediately tell I was in a place where the goal was to help kids feel safe and loved, and within about half a second everything I thought I understood about my future shifted to focus on HALO's youth. I just knew that this was where I needed to be. My volunteer experience solidified this as I witnessed firsthand the impact HALO had on the at-risk youth of Kansas City. A few years later, I had graduated college and found out they were hiring for the Kansas City Program Facilitator, and I knew that my experience as a volunteer and my own skill set had prepared me to take on this important role. From my first moment in the Learning Center years ago, I knew that HALO was exactly where I needed to be, and I still could not imagine myself doing anything else.
Q: What are your favorite things about your role with HALO?
A: I love working with our kiddos. I love planning lessons that I think will be fun or helpful for them, I love building relationships with the kiddos and with the agencies we partner with, and I love that every single time I come to work, we have the opportunity to make the world a little better for someone who needs help. I am in the unique position of getting to meet our kiddos in some of their scariest moments, getting to know who they are as valuable individuals, and getting to do my part to connect them with whatever they need when they come to us -- whether that be food, essential supplies, or just a respectful and compassionate ear to listen to their lived experiences.
I've had the amazing privilege of getting to know many of our kiddos over a period of weeks or months and get to watch them become more emotionally mature, or help them prepare for a job interview, and often (best of all) see them reach a goal and become a contributing member of our society. I have the deepest admiration and respect for our supporters -- they provide us the ability to meet kids where they're at and help them in whatever ways they need, they give us the opportunity to show these kiddos love, teach them new things, help them dream bigger. We couldn't do this important work without their generosity.
Q: What do the HALO youth that you get to work with mean to you?
A: Everything! They genuinely mean everything to me, to all of us at HALO. They possess such strength, resiliency, love, courage, and hope. They are intelligent, complex, kind and brave -- and often, some of the most truly comedic people you could ever meet. I am constantly learning from them. When they share their pain with us, we feel it deeply. But even more deeply, we feel love and pride for every step they take and every accomplishment. We call ourselves their "mama bears" -- compassionate, empathetic, and fiercely defensive of their safety and wellbeing. They are at the heart of every decision I make here. They are truly everything.
Q: How have you seen HALO step in to provide a foundation of a family to our HALO youth?
A: In our Learning Center, we use our art projects to give youth the space to reflect on, practice, or learn about important life skills. Think about the life skills that many of us learn from our families as kids, the things that make us better friends, teammates, students, and citizens -- integrity, confidence, leadership, perseverance, respect, empathy, and so on; without someone to show us how to use these skills, and teach us why it matters, we might never learn them at all. As their HALO family, it is our privilege to teach and model these skills, and guide our kiddos through art projects that help them realize why these skills are important to them as individuals and how they can use them in other parts of their life.
Q: If you could tell those who don’t know about the work HALO does what would it be?
A: I would tell them that we work to help one more child spend one less day alone, and that we do that by providing children in need with housing, healing and education. We are the bridge between people who want to help and children who need help. We work where children are in need, and we do whatever we can to connect our youth to resources and help them reach their vision of success.
I would also insist that they come by for a visit to see our KC Learning Center, see the hundreds of pieces of artwork our kiddos have let us keep hung up around our offices, and see for yourself the awesome impact our supporters have on the youth of Kansas City.
Thank you Alayna for being that Mama Bear in our youth's lives and always pushing them to achieve greatness. We are so lucky to have you as a presence here at HALO.
If you missed Part 1 of this special series, featuring Jefferson City's Kayla Keller, be sure to check it out!
Interested in getting involved? Learn more about volunteering at HALO here.