Hawa | Colorado Springs, CO

“I want them to see that the past doesn’t have to control the future.”

I’m originally from Liberia, Africa, but I’ve lived in Colorado Springs for the last ten years. I work with children with behavioral troubles, but I also do a podcast and have a charitable organization. 

My experiences with substance use come from my father. He had strict parents who felt a lot of pressure to keep up their appearances as a respectable family. Because of that, my father’s struggles with alcohol were never really addressed early on. 

His addiction grew stronger and stronger. By the time I was born, he wasn’t around much, and I rarely saw him when he wasn’t using substances. He often stole to support his addiction. A formative memory for me was when he sold my school uniform on the day of a big test. I couldn’t take the test—it was hurtful to have my father do something like that. 

Eventually, I moved to America. Although I didn’t have a lot of contact with my father, I tried hard to have a relationship with him. I would call him on his birthday and tell him that even though other people had turned away from him, I hadn’t. Before he passed away, I sat down with him to tell him how I felt and how he had hurt me. He wasn’t ready to hear it or to take ownership, but I was glad I expressed myself. 

I have turned a sad story with my father into something positive. Today, I do social work with children and families in the community, and am pursuing a mental health license to be fully equipped to give families resources. I also raise funds to sponsor young people in Liberia struggling with addiction. We help them seek treatment and even help fund school and job training. I encourage them, and I share my story. I want them to see that the past doesn’t have to control the future. I tell them, “your story doesn’t define you.”