What Motherhood Means at RefuSHE

Illuminata (left) with some of the young women in RefuSHE’s programs

Illuminata (left) with some of the young women in RefuSHE’s programs

In honor of Mother’s Day, we reached out to two incredible RefuSHE staff members who embody the values of motherhood – strength, care, compassion, and so much more. Illuminata and Hellen are integral to the Safe House program and provide case management for the young women and children we serve on a daily basis. We asked them both what being a mother means to them, and how they juggle this role in their work and home lives.

“The term mother and the more endearing “mom” gained a new meaning when I joined RefuSHE early this year,” Illuminata shared. “The girls we serve are from diverse backgrounds, but the term is clearly universal. There is the same excitement when they are told ‘now you have a mom.’”

Though already a mother of two, Hellen remembers the day that she became a “mom” for RefuSHE. “My first contact was a young refugee boy who came in seeking counseling services. He told me his story, and throughout it, all I could do was to listen intently and nod. Once he was done, he told me, ‘Do you know that you remind me of my mother?’ and then quickly he added, ‘Can I call you Mum Hellen?’ And that’s how my story with RefuSHE began.”

“I went home and couldn’t stop thinking about this boy,” Hellen recalls. “I imagined the first moment I had a baby in my hands and the joy this brought into my life. I was able to relate this feeling to the young boy, who had no one to count on or to call a mother.”

Similarly, Illuminata embraces the role of being a “mom” to more than 50 children. “Sometimes I compare it with raising my children and when I remember how challenged I felt then, I wonder how it would compare if I were to go back and have these two families,” she reflects. “ The challenges are there, of course, but they are not very different from what I have experienced with my own children – the only difference being in the numbers.”

Hellen balances raising her own children and supporting RefuSHE’s children at the same time. “One time, I had to spend the night at the Safe House and only informed my family very late. The next day, when I went home, my daughter was curious about my work and asked me to tell her more. I told my family what we do at RefuSHE and asked for their support. My daughter was so touched – she went into her wardrobe and packed some clothes, then brought them out. She said, ‘Mom, I think I have more than I want, please can I share these with the girls?’”

Hellen with her husband, son, and daughter

Hellen with her husband, son, and daughter

Of course, being a mom to so many children has its moments. Illuminata notes, “Discipline was the biggest challenge initially, but as a house, we agreed we would work it out as friends and family. The diverse nationalities can present issues at times, though we still agree that fate has destined us to be family, and so family we remain!

“After everything, we are all humans, which supersedes any nationality – ethnic, religious, or otherwise.”

“Every day, I sacrifice my wants and needs to meet the needs of these young girls,” Hellen remarks. “I believe my role at RefuSHE is not only a passion, but a calling.”

At the end of the day, both of these women are grateful for the gift and experiences of motherhood in its many different forms. “I know that after all the conversations and activities that happen in a day, I will still give a good night hug to a handful of little, expectant faces,” says Illuminata.

“Motherhood has made me realize how much love I have to give,” Hellen shares. “It makes me see how someone could love many people in many ways, and yet still have room to love more.”

“At RefuSHE, I feel this way too,” she states. “I am getting to know the girls as individuals, and I am experiencing big life events alongside them. We go through good and bad times together, and I will always be there, because that’s what you do when you love someone.”