If I could describe the HOPE Village culture in one word, it would be empowered. While the HVR full-time staff comprises of only 4 people, this doesn’t stop them from creating sustainable projects that benefit their community. All the staff members live in the HOPE Village, which means that they truly know the community’s needs the best because they themselves are part of it. Everyone focuses on the positives of their neighborhood, and are hopeful of the changes that they can make to alleviate the negatives. The key motto of every event is “We Are Stronger Together”, which fully encompasses the unity and optimism of the neighborhood. While the organization is relatively new, HVR feels supported by the residents and fully supports them back.
Partnership is also a key component of HVR culture. Building equal partnerships between residents and HVR is a central focus, as they comprise the HVR board and have a say in every decision made for their neighborhood. There is also a mutual understanding between HVR and outside organizations to promote actions that are in the best interest of the community. Rather than having outside orgs come in and do the work on their own, HVR prefers to work with them directly. For example, in the last few community call-ins, HVR introduced Advantage Health and the American Heart Association to the residents since they will be conducting COVID-19 testing in the neighborhood. Partnerships with this foundation establish trust and hope in neighborhood residents.
I am the youngest staff member at HVR, and one of the only staff members that aren’t black. While I don’t match the older and black demographics of the community, this does not stop anyone from welcoming me with open arms. On my first day after introducing myself, one of the coordinators reached out to me personally to welcome me to the neighborhood. She assured me that I can always reach out to anyone if I encounter problems and that everyone is excited to work with HVR’s first intern. While this was a small gesture, it assured my anxieties about making community connections from a distance and empowered me to give my all in my work.