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Omaha Magazine

Battling the Effects of Fatherlessness

May 30, 2014 09:44AM ● By Josie Bungert
Tunette Powell is a local inspirational speaker, writer, and mother who is now guiding those affected by fatherlessness.

It’s a journey she knows all too well.

“My father was addicted to drugs,” Powell says, “and I grew up with my single mother. She had a limited education, so we struggled. It was very, very tough. My father was in and out of prison. If he wasn’t in prison, he was on the streets using drugs.”

Originally from San Antonio, Powell spent much of her childhood in trouble as well. From being kicked out of daycare to skipping many classes her senior year of high school, Powell went through it all. She graduated only by paying a fine and making up skipped days in Saturday classes.

The pattern continued after she graduated.

“I made a lot of reckless decisions, dropped out of college for awhile, and just kind of struggled to find my way,” she says. “But then I started writing. I got with some guys that were doing hip hop music, and I wrote about my father and how much it hurt me. I started connecting the pieces. All this time, a lot of my struggles were because I didn’t have my father. Because I didn’t see the connection there, I didn’t see that it mattered so much that I didn’t have him.”

The song that she wrote and the revelation that went along with the experience led her to the work she is doing now. Powell functions as CEO of The Truth Heals, a program that focuses on helping women and youth affected by fatherlessness find hope and healing. The program, which is getting off the ground through Powell’s nationwide motivational speaking on the topic, hosted its first six-week workshop in April.

The workshop focused on middle and high school girls growing up without fathers. It also catered to the single mothers who raise them.

“We want to show them that there is hope,” Powell says. “So there’s this idea that we cannot replace a father—and we know that—but what we can do is equip single mothers with the resources that they need to be able to stand in that gap.”

Based around the idea of “daddyless to destiny,” Powell hopes the workshops show these children and their single parents that they can still make it. Self-awareness, depersonalization, releasing, capacity building, and sustainability are all key elements of The Truth Heals programs.

“The biggest piece for us is that we feel you have to tell your story, let it go, and create a new story to tell,” Powell says of the method they like to call “TLC.”

Powell says it’s about doing what they can to help the kids create that new story. Before the workshop became reality, the people at The Truth Heals offered and will continue to offer other services to single parents. Community donations allowed the organization to take five families shopping for kids’ holiday gifts. They’re doing Mother’s Day Makeovers for single moms and helping families with such out-of-pocket expenses as graduation caps and gowns and letterman’s jackets. Powell also does one-on-one mentoring with single parents and those affected by fatherlessness. Their goal is to help anyone that comes to them, no matter the age or situation.

To make all of this possible, The Truth Heals partners closely with many community organizations, including Teddy Bear Hollow, CP3O, Bellevue University, and Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare. One of the major partnerships The Truth Heals has in place is with the University of Nebraska-Omaha. UNO has been responsible for helping spread awareness of the issue of fatherlessness through theater productions, their branch of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), and through individual help from professors.

Natalie Smith, a junior at UNO, got involved with The Truth Heals as an education specialist because of her mother, an academic advisor at UNO who is also helping the organization.

“My mom was a single mother,” Smith says. “I can automatically relate to the program in general and I feel a strong pull towards helping youth.”

Smith has been instrumental in coming up with continuing education ideas for youth after the six-week workshops end, as well as brainstorming other ways to help kids succeed in school. One focus is tutoring.

“We want them to have a place to come that’s close to home so they don’t have to travel too far, so we want to do it at the local libraries in their neighborhoods, in every part of town,” Smith says. “There’s a library in North Omaha, South Omaha, central … there’s a library, thank goodness, in every area, so we want them to be able to come to the library, have set hours, and be able to study, get tutoring, extra help, anything you need to get focused.”

The Truth Heals is a community effort. According to Powell, two thirds of the children in North Omaha are growing up without a father.

“We know that it’s a problem, we know that people are hurting, we know that the statistics show us that these kids are going to have to beat the odds, but we want to make beating the odds the norm,” Powell says. “So that’s why we need to put this in place. It’s about the community coming together.”