• Farm field scene with beautiful rainbow

Photo submission by Charlotte Holt from the Hope in Haverhill photo challenge.


A colorful photo of a double rainbow arching over a green field is what brings hope to Charlotte Holt of Mountain Lakes in North Haverhill, NH. Holt’s image was a submission from the Hope in Haverhill Photo Challenge, a project meant to inspire hope and community building within the Haverhill region.

“Look for the rainbow at the end of every storm.” Holt writes alongside her image. “Hope is the last thing ever lost."

The challenge is put on by Haverhill Builds Resilience, a program facilitated by the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. Haverhill is one of three regions in the Merrimack and Grafton counties to receive support from UNH Extension, one of the 10 grantees of the Rural Health and Safety Education (RHSE) grant. The RHSE grant targets rural communities to provide resources for building community resilience to “bounce back” in the face of adversity, such as the isolation and barriers to health brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Hope in Haverhill photo challenge is the brainchild of Joe Mitchell, Local Coordinator for Haverhill Builds Resilience. Mitchell’s passion for his community, tied with a love for photography, inspired him to tackle community building through a new lens.

“I figured this would be a good way to involve different types of community members and try to get their voices to be heard in a way that typically their voices aren’t,” he said. “Anybody can submit a photo of anything that they feel passionate about giving them hope. That brings a lot of light into the community.”

Mitchell has been passionate about the Haverhill area since high school, when he was the Youth Sector Representative for the Haverhill Area Substance Misuse Prevention Coalition (HASMPC). HASMPC is an organization working to prevent and reduce substance misuse in the Haverhill area, specifically among youth. After accepting a position at Woodsville High School as the Student Assistance Program Coordinator in January of 2021, Joe remains a pillar of HASMPC, now as the School Sector Representative.

Mitchell also works closely with Haverhill local Mariah Coulstring, who has served as the HASMPC’s Drug-Free Communities Coordinator since 2017. After hearing about the RHSE grant opportunity through UNH Extension, Coulstring “immediately” contacted Mitchell about applying for the position of Haverhill coordinator. For the past two years, with support from HASMPC, the two have collaborated with UNH Extension on Haverhill Builds Resilience.

“Where the coalition is really focused on the prevention of substances, on health services, and youth-specific programs, this was an opportunity for us to reach deeper into other areas of the community where we know we are impacting substance use and mental health struggles.” Coulstring explained. “It was a neat way for us to dovetail the work we had already established and were doing.”

The Hope in Haverhill photo challenge is a step to assessing Haverhill’s existing assets while finding gaps to best use RHSE funds and resources. Coulstring emphasizes the general need in her community, and the difficulties in developing a concise plan to use the grant money. On the other hand, the photo challenge is a way to bring the community together.

“We were in the middle of this pandemic and trying to encourage people to find hope in the things that are in our backyards. To get outside and take photos and share the things that keep us going and keep us hopeful in these times when we aren’t hopeful.” Coulstring said.

Images and quotes collected from the Hope in Haverhill photo challenge will be used in future community events and on display at local organizations. Mitchell requests any organization interested in having these photos on display to contact him. Additionally, the photo challenge continues to accept photos and quotes from the community.

“The project isn’t just about showcasing the places, it’s also about showcasing the organizations and the people that better our community… I am hoping more people will submit those.”

Mitchell invites anyone to share what gives them hope in Haverhill, as well as any ideas to help build resilience in the Haverhill area through a survey found on the Hope in Haverhill Facebook group. For more information, email Joe Mitchell at jmitchell@sau23.org.

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