December 07, 2023

Changing the Narrative for Children and Communities Impacted by Gun Violence

Dialo* is an outgoing, charismatic 11-year-old — full of promise and potential. He and his Friend love to play basketball and his natural leadership abilities shine with both his peers and adults.

Dialo joined the Friends of the Children - Chicago program in kindergarten. Living on the West Side, Dialo and his mom face a lot of challenges. Since joining the program, they have struggled to make ends meet, and have moved into a number of different homes. Like many of his peers in the neighborhood, Dialo’s young life has already been impacted by gun violence: at his 7th birthday party, Dialo had to hide in the bathtub because shots were fired in his own home.

Children and families on Chicago’s West Side, where we work, are faced with disproportionate amounts of violence and trauma that can challenge their ability to thrive, and impact both mental and physical wellbeing. The chapter has enrolled children who had already, by the time they turned five years old, lost a parent or caregiver to gun violence. Many of the Friends have also been impacted by gun violence like the children they serve.

Knowing that every child is full of possibility and deserves to feel safe, Friends - Chicago creates safe spaces — physically and emotionally — giving children tools to process their emotions and recover from trauma. The chapter is also working to change the narrative about children and families impacted by gun violence and intergenerational trauma.

“No one is destined to become involved in gun violence,” says Taal Hasak-Lowy, Executive Director of Friends - Chicago. “We know that if we provide a child with proper support, they can stay on a positive trajectory toward achieving their dreams.”

This includes children like Dialo, who is well on his way toward achieving dreams of his own. This year, in a meeting with a state Senator at the Friends - Chicago clubhouse, Dialo was the first to offer a handshake to the elected official and advocate for himself and his community. We can’t wait to see where this young man’s journey leads!