Mother, مادر, mama, أم

English, Dari, Swahili, Arabic

August 24, 2022

Women’s Way: Stories of Pittsburgh Mothers

Written by: Abby Jo Perez, Intensive Support Program Manager
Date: August 24, 2022

Since 2020, COVID-19 has affected every aspect of life. Stories of Motherhood in the Time of COVID is a series of nine short films that tell pandemic stories of Pittsburgh mothers from around the world. At times, life slowed to a crawl or even halted. Birth and motherhood experiences throughout COVID were now different, and motherhood took on unique challenges never seen before: virtual learning, social distancing, limitations on visitors. To capture some of the unique experiences of motherhood across communities, Hello Neighbor partnered with Sharing Our Story. We brought together a diverse group of women who shared one important identity, mother.

Through workshops supported by both Sharing Our Story and Hello Neighbor volunteers, women worked to connect in a shared space, beginning with identifying important items that capture a component of their varying identities: refugees from Congo, an immigrant from Iran, a special immigrant visa holder from Afghanistan, and refugees from Iraq and Syria as well as US-born Pittsburghers.

Collection of items, mural, bible, jewelry, scarves, family photo, bird's nest, child's clothing, child's painting, etc.

Throughout the workshops, the mothers swapping stories were guided to develop their stories. Participants were provided with a platform to express moments of motherhood, thank their support system(s), and share with the public their journeys through motherhood in the time of COVID. The stories, paired with carefully chosen images and music, present an array of what motherhood looks like—the good and the bad.

After the workshops, public discussions with guest facilitators and language interpreters further opened the conversation around motherhood, COVID, and refugee journeys to Pittsburgh.

Free screenings of the nine short films developed from these workshops were hosted across Pittsburgh neighborhoods in May, June, and July of 2022 by several of our generous partners. The first public discussion was facilitated by Bishnu Timsina of the Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh (BCAP) at the Brentwood Library with an amazing performance by Sankofa Village of the Arts and delicious food provided by Zafaron. Following the first discussion, Caley Donovan, Director of Resettlement at Bethany Christian, facilitated a lively discussion at the City of Asylum with a Persian interpreter, holding a moment of silence for those living through the aftermath of the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan. Our wrap-up presentation was hosted at the St. Nicholas Croatian Church surrounded by the beautiful Murals of Maxo Vanka with facilitation by Wiam Younes of Ansar and Arabic interpretation.

Mothers featured in the film include Tammy Griffin, Fakhiriya Hashemi, Dalal Klouwanli, Tahereh Hooshangi, Mawazo Kachale, Annette Zawadi, Marwa Alkjafaji, and Kendall James-Davis.

Watching the videos takes you through journeys of motherhood filled with grief, struggle, war, and hardships. Ultimately, most of the stories evolve into ones filled with triumphs as the mothers persevere against all odds, as mothers do.

Mawazo Kachale’s story of her family leaving their refugee camp and arriving in Pittsburgh at the beginning of 2020 is one of such triumph and perseverance: “We had only been in the United States for a month when everything shut down… [Now] my children are all now back in their schools… [my oldest] will graduate this year… We are all much happier and more hopeful now.”

Having interpretation during our event allowed participation that reached across language barriers. Caley Donovan reflects that “It was wonderful to be part of an event that brought people together and where Afghan mothers in the audience felt comfortable and empowered to share their stories too.”

It takes a village to raise a child. If you’re interested in supporting local refugee and immigrant mothers, get involved here: helloneighbor.io/get-involved.

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