Program Spotlight: HopeWorks of Howard County

Jul 13th, 2022

This quarter, we spoke to Vanita Leatherwood, the Director of Community Engagement, who joined HopeWorks of Howard County in 2011, to learn more about the services they provide. Visit their website here.

1.     What makes the Howard County community you serve special?

Howard County is especially wonderful in the way that it responds to challenges – and celebration. It is uplifting to see people from various places in the county come together, start conversations, and figure out how to respond. Not just government agencies, but individual citizens, nonprofits, faith communities; everyone. The same kind of coming together happens at moments of joy too. It’s what first drew me to the community.

2.     Tell us about HopeWorks current community prevention efforts.

Our prevention efforts are very comprehensive. We continue to offer skill building and healthy relationships trainings, but we also address root causes and work to shift culture. So, we do all kinds of programming, from workshops in the Howard County Public School System to addressing the long-term health issues of survivors. As poet/activist Audre Lorde said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” We address the disparities that intersect within the lives of many survivors. To do this, we use the arts in three important ways to accomplish our mission: to support survivors in their healing; as a vehicle to increase awareness; and to imagine creative solutions to bring about social change. 

3.     Why are you a member of MCASA?

It is wonderful to have a state coalition that we can turn to for information, trainings, and serve as public policy advocates for survivors. We are a member of MCASA not only because of their wealth of experience. It is also reassuring – energizing - to be part of a network of voices in Maryland who are very serious about ending sexual violence.

4.     What called you to your work?

 The answer to that is a long story. The foundation of that story is beautifully summarized in a quote attributed to poet/activist Alice Walker “Look closely at the present you are constructing: It should look like the future you are dreaming.” I’m working to build a future of peace; there is no other work I want to do. 

5.     How has the pandemic affected HopeWorks and the survivors you serve?

The pandemic has added another layer of challenges created by inequities. We are working diligently to address the issues that were already there with new complications. Anxiety is everywhere you turn now, and even more so for those experiencing personal trauma while our world is in trauma. We have offered more opportunities for survivors to gather, to learn and lean on one another. And to offer tools to address all kinds of anxieties. While in the background administrators are shoring up the systems and access to additional resources. I think we are all realizing how very resilient we are.

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