Staff Spotlight: Kahara Hunafa

Wearing many hats is something Kahara Hunafa, Empowerment Program Specialist, thrives on. Over the last three and a half years, Kahara has become an integral part of the YWRC team.

Kahara Hunafa

“I, along with three other Empowerment staff and two Empowerment Assistants, go into Greater Des Moines schools to facilitate small, six-week Empowerment Groups. These groups focus on teaching the girls resiliency, self-esteem, body image, period positivity/reproductive health and healthy relationships/friendships. We are currently in 26 different schools in the DMPS district and surrounding areas (with more schools starting throughout the semester).

At the YWRC, I facilitate two after school groups (5th grade and 8th grade) that run all school year and throughout the summer. In those groups, we focus on the same topics along with self-care, healthy coping skills, and trying new skills and activities. I also facilitate mediation groups in the schools for girls to assist them in healthy conflict resolutions. I find that these groups are successful, because, like the rest of our Empowerment groups, I provide a safe, honest and open space for the girls to share and be heard. When I’m not facilitating groups in schools/at the YWRC or doing paperwork, I am sitting around a coffee table with my Empowerment Team collaborating on up-to-date and trendy ideas for groups or planning the next big client event!”

It became apparent to Kahara that the YWRC was where she wanted to be from the beginning.

“As soon as I saw that there was a position open, and read the description of the job duties, I knew in my gut this was the work I was supposed to be doing. At my former job, I felt like something was missing. Even though I was helping families, I felt like passion and purpose were missing in my career. When I was called to come in and interview, not only did I receive the warmest welcome, but I also had an overwhelming feeling that this was where I belonged. The work and passion I heard during my interview and all of the powerful and inspiring words plastered around the building let me know the mission and vison of the YWRC aligned perfectly with my own passion and values.”

The passion and drive Kahara holds for empowering girls and young women is apparent in the way she interacts with clients through respect and understanding. It’s this passion that helps drive Kahara to guide clients through tough situations.

“My favorite part of my job is being able to connect with the girls in group. I especially love it when I feel like I get a breakthrough with a particularly tough group, and am able to talk to them about issues that they face in school or at home. And, with that, they end up having a breakthrough themselves and learn healthy ways to work through their issues and conflicts.

I think the most important thing to teach girls and young women is to make sure they know how to use their voice and stand up for themselves. This will not only help them in protecting their human rights, but, will also ensure that they have self-confidence and believe that they can be anything they want to be, do anything they want to do, and love anyone they want to love.”

The strong sense of self and encouragement of others exhibited by Kahara has been and continues to be influenced by her lifelong role model, her mother.

“My mother was and still is my biggest role model. Growing up, I always admired her resiliency, courage, compassion and dedication to her family and her career. Seeing her in her classroom setting, I was amazed at how she could captivate her students and make learning fun and cool. This always made me set the bar really high for my elementary school teachers (since I was never a student at the school she taught at).

Today, I am able to admire her from a woman-to-woman perspective. I look up to her for the same reasons from when I was little, but now there are many more layers of her that are so admirable. I see her now as more of a local super shero than anything else! Even some of her earliest elementary school students (who are now in their 30s) remember her. They always make it a point to come up to her whether we are in the grocery store, at dinner or shopping to let her know she was the reason for their career choice (usually STEM related) and how much they loved her as their teacher! I’m a lucky woman, to be able to call her mom.”

It is clear to us here at the YWRC that Kahara positively impacts our clients in a similar manner as her mother has to her students. Kahara genuinely cares about helping to uplift our girls and young women.

“With social media at the forefront of most peoples’ brains, this one is a lot easier said than done. But, some advice I would give to girls and young women is to be themselves and embrace sisterhood. It’s so easy to judge other women, tear each other down and envy/compare yourselves to others. I think if we (as women) put more energy into uplifting, supporting and embracing our differences and diversity, we could be an unstoppable force (not that we aren’t already!).”

When she’s not busy inspiring the future leaders of our community, Kahara can be found taking her dog Kaja on walks, enjoying a live music show, catching up with friends at local food joints, gathering for family BBQs, or partaking in the usual Netflix binge with her partner and dog on the sofa.

Three facts you may not know about Kahara:

  • She has a fear of snakes, clowns, large flocks of birds and mascots.
  • Cloudy winter and falls days are her favorite.
  • She has always wanted to write a book or be a screen writer. “It’s never too late, right?”

Thank you, Kahara, for being an excellent example and role model for not only our young women, but for our staff and volunteers as well. You rock!