Blog banner for New Avenues and Kalamuna Partnership DrupalCon 2022

DrupalCon Community Aids Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Tristan Donowho
| May 10, 2022



At DrupalCon 2022, we partnered with local nonprofit New Avenues for Youth and provided a platform for their mission to support youth experiencing homelessness in the Portland area. The  global homelessness crisis is an issue plaguing communities everywhere, especially in Portland. People are at the heart of everything we do, and we wanted to make an effort to leave the Portland community a bit better than we found it. Learn more about our partnership with New Avenues in our previous blog post.

DrupalCon is a perfect environment to learn about the future of Drupal, see old friends, and network with new members of our industry. On top of that, it’s been long known that caring for others and improving the lives of the people around us is fundamental to the Drupal community. That’s why we believe it’s essential to focus not only on how we work to improve our clients' and partners’ lives—but why we do it. Why do we work on the projects we have, and how do we connect our industry to that purpose on a human level?

Andrew, Ken, and Tristan @ DrupalCon 2022
(Left to Right) Marketing Coordinator, Tristan Donowho | CEO & Co-Founder, Andrew Mallis | Operations Manager, Ken Lo

Our booth and purpose

Pantheon's Strategic Partner Manager, Eunnice Lee
Pantheon's Strategic Partner Manager, Eunnice Lee

Our partner, New Avenues for Youth, provides day-in services, shelter, meals, and countless other initiatives to improve the lives of young people between the ages of 9-24 experiencing homelessness in the Portland area. When asking New Avenues for Youth employees about resources and supplies they need, they let us know that one of the more requested items they have from the youth they serve is MP3 players.

We learned that the youth of New Avenues say that music helps them through hard times in their lives and inspires them to work through the conditions they are in, much like many of us do when times get rough. The Kalamuna and New Avenues teams saw this as a way to connect DrupalCon attendees with the youth experiencing homelessness in Portland.

We asked attendees to share a song on a heart sticker that helped them during a difficult time in their life. Each sticker would then translate into a monetary donation from Kalamuna to New Avenues for Youth.

We received 165 stickers with songs that helped people through the hardships of life

DrupalCon Booth Wall
Our DrupalCon 2022 sticker wall full of 165 songs that helped people through hardship.

During our interactions with attendees, it was not uncommon for them to need to stand back and reflect on what song helped them the most in a hard time. With DrupalCon’s focus being innovations in Drupal, professional development, and networking, it was necessary to take a moment and ponder—reconnecting with a part of ourselves that is emotional and human. Instead of being caught up in the hustle and bustle of the conference, we asked attendees to slow down, and it proved to be an emotional and heartwarming experience for many.

In addition, attendees had the opportunity to record a testimonial in our audio booth about the song they shared or the experience they had in hard times—sending a message to the youth of New Avenues directly. Each testimonial would translate into an MP3 player donated to New Avenues, and each recording will be shared with the youth.

Attendees recorded 46 testimonials to share with the youth that New Avenues serves

Microphone from DrupalCon 2022 booth
Our professional audio booth that allowed attendees to record testimonials. 

When attendees entered our recording booth, it was common for them not to know what to say. After exiting, it was not uncommon to see a few shed tears or a sigh that indicated a connection with a deeper part of themselves.

DrupalCon attendees' contributions translated into a total $2,000 donation of cash + MP3 players

Gitlab's Fatima Sarah Khalid at DrupalCon 2022
Gitlab's Developer Evangelist, Fatima Sarah Khalid

Genuine and heartfelt interactions were not scarce during our time at DrupalCon. On multiple occasions, attendees would share songs and stories from their time experiencing homelessness. This reiterated and affirmed the pervasiveness of the issue. Around 10-15 attendees recounted their experience of being unhoused and the harsh realities of homelessness, and how it can swallow up any of us without warning. Conversations surrounding the DREAMers and citizenship issues, trans and LGBTQ rights, and homelessness’ pervasiveness throughout the country, regardless of political affiliation, gave context and human connection to the problem.

One attendee remarked, "It was as if I was speaking directly to the homeless youth of New Avenues. Knowing that I could share something small and possibly contribute positively to their lives is incredibly meaningful.” In addition, another attendee visited the booth already in tears. He exclaimed how he was a homeless youth in the Portland area years ago and shared his connection with New Avenues’ mission. We were honored to have had so many attendees express vulnerability, share their stories, and start moving conversations on how we get through the most difficult parts of our lives.

Drupalcon Attendee with her Heart Song
DrupalCon attendee with her heart sticker, posing in front of our booth wall. 

When we set out to create this booth, we couldn’t have predicted the amount of heart, humanity, and love that would pour out in response to New Avenues’ mission—but that’s an indicator of our incredible community. Thank you to everyone who came to our booth and contributed to this mission!

Below, you’ll find a link to our Spotify playlist of all of the songs shared, and more information on how to continue to push New Avenues’ mission forward.

Our Spotify Playlist 

What's Next? 

You can find more information on New Avenues for Youth and help further their mission through their website. In addition, feel free to contribute to their cause on their donation page.

Be sure to follow us on social media for updates on new partnerships, more information about our DrupalCon interaction, and to continue the conversation about why people are at the heart of everything we do.

This article is part 3 of our DrupalCon Portland 2022 series. Take a look below at the previous two entries.

Learn more about how else we contributed to DrupalCon 2022.

Learn more about our partnership with New Avenues.

Tristan Donowho headshot

Tristan Donowho

Former Marketing Coordinator

Tristan knows how to make things happen. Kalamuna’s Marketing Coordinator ensures that our blogs, newsletters, and advertising partnerships run like clockwork. He’s had experience in graphic design, copywriting, project management, and more. When Tristan isn’t keeping our marketing machine going, he’s performing at open mics and playing board games with his friends in the North Texas area.