~by guest writer Aubony Chalfant
Upon learning about iEmpathize, we knew that The Empower Youth Program was something we needed to be teaching at HALO.
HALO is a non-profit organization that provides housing, healing, and education to homeless and at-risk youth around the world. Although HALO is based in Kansas City, Missouri, we work in six other countries, supporting youth in the greatest need.
In our Learning Centers, HALO provides future-focused, therapeutic workshops and life skills training to our youth. The Empower Youth Program seemed to be a way that we could teach empathy, positive and negative influences, making good choices, and much more to our teens that were experiencing homelessness, abuse, neglect, and other traumatic situations.
Because most of the HALO youth that would be attending were from 30-day, emergency, high-transition homeless shelters, we had to adapt the Empower Youth Program to fit this circumstance. If a youth only came to one session and then never again, would the material still be valuable? Or what if a youth showed up for the first time at session three – would the information make sense?
After teaching the program three consecutive times, with these challenges, the answer is yes. What we found was that, while being able to build upon the material week to week was ideal, youth still found pieces of each module that resonated with them, regardless of how much or how little information they had had previously. Because of their backgrounds, all of our HALO youth understand a “negative pull” or the different disguises of manipulators. And because of those backgrounds, the messages of empathy and utilizing “positive pulls” to get out of negative situations is so important.
The response to the Empower Youth Program has been overwhelmingly positive. HALO staff and interns have even incorporated art projects, games, and other activities into the existing curriculum. Art, especially, plays a huge role in HALO, and helps our youth express themselves where words fail. The art projects we have facilitated during this program are visual representations of empathy, positive pulls, and self-esteem.
HALO continues to teach the Empower Youth Program in it’s HALO Center in Kansas City, and is about to expand to Jefferson City, Missouri, with hopes to expand to Uganda and Mexico.
Aubony Chalfant is the Program Facilitator at HALO in Kansas City, Missouri.
If you would like to learn more about bringing The Empower Youth Program to your school or youth-serving organization, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.