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Bryce Dallas Howard & HALO

Helping one more child spend one less day alone

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Most of us know Bryce Dallas Howard for her starring roles in RocketmanThe Help and Jurassic World. Others know her as the daughter of Ron Howard, the award-winning director and actor. Family has always been part of her story—and it's important to her, too. She's a mother herself, with two young children.

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Which is why we love that she's connected with HALO, a charity whose prime mission is to aid children who don't have that family foundation, who are living in shelters and on the streets, whose futures are often marked by a big question mark. In the U.S., that's roughly 1.3 million homeless youth. Think about that number—1.3 million—and then consider this: 60% report being raped, beaten up, robbed, or assaulted. We shouldn't stand for this. 

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Rebecca Welsh, who founded HALO 15 years ago, agrees. Long drawn to helping those in need, she launched the nonprofit after volunteering with Mercy Ships, which provides medical to developing countries. There, she learned how powerful a therapeutic tool art was—it's key to the programming today and the inspiration behind the organization’s moniker. HALO stands for “Helping Art Liberate Orphans."

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"I so admire how HALO’s core is love," says Howard. "Loving all who come through, loving them so they heal from the trauma they've been through. That’s how they change lives and break the cycle of homelessness."

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Here, we chat with Howard, our #VBGivesBack woman of the month, to learn more about this cause and why it's such a personal one for her.

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Bryce Dallas Howard, photographed by Martina Tolot

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Q&A

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What's the mission behind HALO?
The mission is to help one more child spend one less day alone. It's about helping children who don't have a foundation of a family. HALO provides that and does it by giving them housing, healing and education.

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How big is HALO's reach?
The organization serves over 1,450 kids a year, internationally, from India to Uganda, Kenya, Mexico and, of course, here in the United States. With sufficient funding, the vision is to have a HALO home in every city in the U.S.

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Tell us about the programs…
HALO has their own housing and supports other homes around the world. Sometimes their work includes satellite programming where community organizers go into existing shelters and enhance programming already in place. For example, homeless shelters typically don't have enough funding to provide programs that help kids transition out of a shelter, so future-planning for HALO youth is a central component to their work.

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A HALO-supported school in India

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You're right—all too often we just think of the physical needs…
Rebecca Welsh, the founder of HALO, once told me, "You can only love as much as you've been loved." When a kid walks through HALO’s door for the first time, they are met with the love of family. HALO volunteers say, "We have a room set up for you. We heard you love art, so here are supplies to express yourself. Let's cook together. Let me teach you how to make your bed." It's the little details that you would do if you were their parent. It's easy for strangers to say, "Get a job, save your money,” but that doesn’t teach these kids anything. I so admire how HALO’s core is love. Loving all who come through, loving them so they heal from the trauma they've been through. That’s how they change lives and break the cycle of homelessness.

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Why is this cause such an important one?
Through our partnerships with area homeless shelters, residential care facilities, alternative high schools, and our own HALO Home programs, we see the alarming growth of youth homelessness daily—on any given night, there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth in the U.S. living in the street, in abandoned buildings, with friends or with strangers. The other statistics are more staggering: 46% of homeless youth reported being physically abused, 38% reported being emotionally abused, and 17% reported being forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family our household member. It is estimated that 5,000 homeless youth die each year as a result of assault, illness or suicide.
Also, the current drug epidemic is overwhelming the foster system; there's not enough housing for teenagers who are 16 to 21, and people who are fostering would rather foster a baby than a teenager. But teenagers are at a crucial age; that's the time where you can really turn around a life.

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HALO just creates the environment to ignite each child’s greatest potential, and all from a place of love.

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What happens when you work with an existing shelter?
Halo either visits a site and does the programming there or, in places where there is already a HALO learning center, kids travel there. Either way, the kids do art or yoga—all kinds of stuff that gets them active and engaged. HALO is creating a space for healing from the past in order to imagine and work towards their brighter future.

What's the age range?
Kids can start really young, from age five, all the way up to those who are in their twenties. In our housing program it can even be babies. But regardless of age, they are all part of the HALO family, and many come home for Thanksgiving or the holidays, or come back and teach a class or life skill. It really is like a family. Rebecca always says a kid never ages out.

How do you build trust with these children?
What I respect about HALO is that they stay true to their word every single time; they follow through no matter what. These children have been taken advantage of and dismissed by broken structures. Therefore it is critical that the HALO family represents not only love, but also an example of integrity. Once these kids have proof that they can count on someone other than themselves, then they can start to have a sense of confidence and trust in others. This trust often takes time.

HALO students taking a fun photo break in between classes at their boarding school in Uganda

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How did you become involved with HALO? When?
I directed the short-film series INSPIRED BY WOMEN, and Rebecca was one of the featured women! When I went to Kansas City to meet her, she introduced me to some of the HALO youth she works with. They shared their journeys and stories, and I was so moved by their utter resilience. I've been involved with HALO ever since.

Why is this cause such an important one to you, personally?
Taking care of global youth is about taking care of our global future. We’ve seen time and time again how children have the capacity for monumental change—their spirit, hope, and drive push us towards a better future. The kids that come through HALO’s programming are whole and brilliant in their own right. HALO just creates the environment to ignite each child’s greatest potential, and all from a place of love. Love is what’s important.

Tips for our readers who want to get involved?
There are so many ways to be involved—working directly with the kids, in the office, donating or just spreading the world about HALO. I definitely encourage everyone to visit the site to learn more.

Marjai, at age 10, two years after joining HALO...

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Could you share any stories about the impact Halo has made?
One of the kids I met during filming was 13-year-old Marjai, who had been living in a shelter when she joined HALO. I was told that in the past she had been considered a little “difficult” (I mean it makes sense that typically the kids who enter Halo can be angry, frustrated, and hurt). However, once HALO introduced her to poetry, it was like a light bulb went off. Marjai ended up on the poetry team in high school and traveled all over the U.S. for slam poetry competitions. When she graduated, she got a full-ride scholarship to one of the top journalism schools in America. I think about Marjai all the time. I’ve heard Rebecca say—and I agree completely—that these kids have overcome so much and are often the most high performing, hard working, and mature people. What others would typically consider stressful or insurmountable are often nothing for these kids.
Another young woman I spent time with was Caylin, who had gone through rehab because she was pregnant at 14 and wanted to keep the baby. She had nowhere to go when she came to HALO; both her parents were drug addicts. All of this didn’t stop her. Caylin is currently enrolled in college, and is an example of what it means to break the cycle of abuse and trauma.
Caylin and Marjai are not rare stories. These are the kinds of young people HALO is able to support.

...and Marjai today

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