Passport Day: Students and children come together for a culture and cause

Johanna Poppel

International student organizations and local disadvantaged youth came together last Friday evening in Pierson Auditorium for UMKC’s first Passport Day, which was presented by the HALO (Helping Art Liberate Orphans) Foundation at UMKC, a student organization new to campus this semester.

The HALO may have a new presence on campus, but the HALO Foundation is nationally and internationally at work. Internationally, HALO partners with 11 orphanages and programs in Uganda, Kenya, Mexico, India and Nicaragua. The HALO Foundation helps provide food, water, shelter, clothing, education, art therapy, caretakers and vocational training, skills and college scholarships for homeless or impoverished youth. HALO focuses on programming to help at-risk youth to develop a fulfilling future for themselves so they can support their community. Originally HALO sought to allow street children and improvised youth in developing countries an opportunity to create a bond and express themselves through art. HALO has grown to provide much more on a broader scale, serving more than 1,000 youth each year.

Domestically, HALO partners with area homeless shelters, residential care facilities and transitional living programs to provide art therapy, educational workshops and life skills to youth. Workshops range in a variety of skills such as: personal finance, dance, sewing, computing and poetry. Branches are located from coast to coast with its headquarters in Kansas City. Located in the West Bottoms, HALO provides a learning center for area youth with a few staff members, 30 volunteers a week and a board of committed volunteer ambassadors.

Andrea Steere, president of the new HALO Foundation branch at UMKC, serves on the ambassador board and has served as an intern at the local HALO branch since last January. Steere’s experience led her to start this new student organization at UMKC this semester. Steere explained a need for such a group on campus because of a disconnect she noticed between students and the reality of youth in developing countries.

“We wanted to be the ones that start the conversation on campus.” Steere said. “Students often get distracted with the hectic and busy life of a student.”

Steere said she sees great potential for the new student organization.

“The students that are a part of this new organization show a strong passion and are really engaged.” Steere said.

Students and local youth in HALO’s program were invited to learn about the different countries in which HALO offers support. Participation from various student organizations helped make Passport Day successful. Various student organizations were responsible for setting up tables showcasing information, crafts, artifacts and activities unique to that country in which HALO serves.

Students in UMKC’s HALO branch represented the table for Nicaragua and GlobeMed students represented Uganda. The Association of Latin-American Students represented Mexico, INDUS represented India and the African Student Cultural Organization represented Kenya.

After visiting each table students and children had a chance to have their “passports” stamped by various countries. A cultural show was presented. A group of INDUS students performed a dance showcasing traditional Indian choreography and Anna Jobe danced Mexican folklore. The show ended with an interactive lesson of Bachata, a Dominican Republic style of dance, by Idaima Calderon.

The HALO branch at UMKC plans on offering educational workshops, advocacy and volunteer opportunities for students.