Empowering the Forgotten in Hampton Roads, Virginia

Alumni TIES
Feb 21 · 4 min read

By Laura Gonzalez Castro

Hampton Roads community members gather for a group education session for the Family Hope Project.

Population diversity is a topic that continues to surface within American society. The United States Census Bureau states the minority population has grown considerably between 2000 and 2010. Furthermore, these statistics project that racial and ethnic minorities will represent 74% of the U.S population by 2045. However, minority populations continue to be excluded in communities due to inequalities in the judicial, educational, and health care system, to name a few. The presence of inclusive educational programs varies across the United States. Southern states statistically have a higher percentage of social inclusion programs. However, southern Virginia appears to be a region were some minorities have been forgotten.

The Hampton Roads metropolitan region, located in the southeast region of Virginia, has a population of predominantly African Americans, followed by White Americans. Immigrants account for 10.9% of the total population in the county and the Hispanic community is the fastest-growing immigrant group in the area. According to a survey administered by Family Hope Project, the absence of educational programs for Hispanic families in Hampton Roads is a reality in the community. This population has been identified as underserved by non-profit organizations in the area and experiences difficulties with language barriers, absent child care, and little time for self-care.

As a result of these challenges, the Family Hope Project emerged as a social necessity in the community and began to address these communal issues. This project was funded through an Alumni TIES small grant from the U.S. Department of State. In addition, the Family Hope project received support and additional funds from Transition Family Violence Services in Hampton, Virginia. The project aimed to educate and prevent substance abuse in Hispanic families living in Hampton Roads. The project involved Hispanic women as participants since this population experiences the highest social vulnerability, and given their matriarchal influence at home, it is understood that educating women will influence the family as a whole.

Through a group education session, participants learn about preventing substance abuse in their families.

With these initiatives in mind, the Family Hope Project formed psycho-educational support groups designed to develop life skills, and shift attitudes and behaviors related to substance abuse. The program consisted of ten group sessions that took place at the Denbigh Community Center in Newport News, Virginia.

After the sessions concluded in December 2018, the project team evaluated the impact of the project on the participants. The results of the preliminary and post assessments confirmed that 90% of participants reported changes in behavior and attitudes related to substance abuse and shared life skills acquired from the project with family members. Due to the women participants sharing their new skills and knowledge from the project, 20 Hispanic families learned preventative measures to combat unhealthy behaviors with an emphasis on substance abuse. The Family Hope project achieved its goal of helping to decrease substance abuse in Hispanic families living in the Hampton Roads metropolitan region.

This project was intended to be an educational program and a community resource for the Hispanic population. After the completion of the program, the participants expressed their intentions to continue attending group sessions.

Family Hope participants meet at Denbigh Community Center in Newport News, Virginia.

It is worth noting that the project team encountered several challenges when developing the program. Often, the participants had to limit their attendance due to work obligations, limited child care, fear of integration due to legal status, and inability to seek transportation. These collective barriers continue to be be the principal reasons that this population remains underserved for non-profit organizations and government agencies.

The Family Hope team mobilized different community organizations in Hampton Roads to assist an underserved population. One of the most successful outcomes is that two organizations in the community, Transition Family Violence Services and Denbigh Community Center are interested in continuing to provide support to the psycho-educational group. These organizations will support the sessions on a bi-weekly basis.

The Family Hope project achieved its goals and objectives of the program. A direct, tangible result is an effective curriculum that addresses specific issues faced by the Hispanic Community in Southern Virginia. In addition, the project team will apply the lessons learned and best practices for the project’s future workshops and endeavors.

“The Family Hope Project” is funded through an Alumni TIES small grant from the U.S. Department of State. For more information about the Alumni TIES program, please click on this web link: https://www.worldlearning.org/program/alumni-thematic-international-exchange-seminars/

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Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (Alumni TIES) are regionally focused seminars for alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs.