Hawa | Colorado Springs, CO

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

I am Hawa. 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.”