Raquelmarie Clark started WAHEO because she had two young daughters when she learned the statistic that 40% of sex trafficking in the nation happened in Oakland, California–the city where she and her life partner drove their children to be watched by her mother-in-law each day while they worked.
She had little knowledge of this global crisis before and wanted to combine her love of writing with meaningful work. So Raquelmarie decided to try grant writing to help organizations serve the community and fulfill their missions without the added layer of stress created by securing funding. Protecting and supporting women and children who have experienced or are at high risk for gendered violence became the founding focus of WAHEO.
In response to the specific needs highlighted by the 2020 pandemic, WAHEO has grown and evolved. The intersectionality of systems, laws, policies, and varying social climates and how these contribute to gendered violence and inequality, requires a multipronged approach. WAHEO’s mission statement: Utilizing grant writing, community collaborations, and grassroots efforts to advocate for resource accessibility and human rights equity for residents of Solano County and Napa County.
This means WAHEO will be launching initiatives that include equity in education, business, basic needs, and more.
Raquelmarie Clark has been through various social “welfare” systems in Solano County–including CalWorks, subsidized childcare, and CalFresh and WIC, she shares. “But I believed in myself and my dreams to make a difference in the community my family and I live in. So I researched and found as many resources as possible to help me realize these dreams.”
While she worked and volunteered, she went back to school and took college-level basic and advanced grant writing courses. She also completed multiple associate degrees at Solano Community College–one in social sciences, one in marketing, and one in liberal arts–while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
Raquelmarie was awarded multiple scholarships, including the Live Your Dream Award from her local Soroptimist group, where she was the Chapter Winner and the Founder Region District Winner. She went on to join that same club and become the committee chair for the Live Your Dream Award program for multiple years. “I wanted to pay it forward and experience the joy of supporting diamonds in the rough like myself who just needed timing, support, and resources to align,” she says.
With a full scholarship to UC Davis, Raquelmarie earned her bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in utilizing data and digital communication to impact the social services sector and humanitarian efforts. She graduated with highest honors. While in her undergraduate program, she also elped her children’s in-home daycare center, which served 14 children, develop into an early education childcare center serving 150 children with a year-long plus waitlist.
During her master's degree at Johns Hopkins University, Raquelmarie was called in to help salvage and rebuild her county’s dual rape crisis and domestic violence intervention center, serving survivors of sex trafficking sexual assault and domestic violence.While having lived experience of gendered violence, before she allowed herself to take on the role of director of grants management and program development, she required herself to gain experience providing services to survivors in crisis. She felt that it would be a privilege to direct multimillion-dollar grants and develop programming, so it was important to know what the “lay of the land” really looked like, how the systems work in the survivor services field, and to see firsthand what advocates might need in the field to feel empowered and flourish.
Raquelmarie now serves as Director of Development of Food is Free Solano, and one of her goals is to replicate and expand its programs and services throughout Napa County.