Sometimes, a seemingly small step can be the start of moving mountains. That’s exactly what Uzma Jafri of Carry the Future and a team of volunteers have done by hosting their fifth refugee baby shower in Phoenix, AZ. Held at the First United Methodist Church of Phoenix, the volunteers served 19 pregnant refugee women in a collaborative event to do so much good.
When talking to Uzma, one is immediately struck by her verve and vision. Her warmth, complemented by a tenacious urgency to do the most good, is infectious. Her high energy and optimistic passion spills out with every word, sweeping you away as she speaks of changing the world.
Uzma first saw baby showers done for refugees overseas. She began to wonder why we couldn’t put on a shower for the resettled expectant moms in her local Phoenix area. Starting over with very little and acclimating to a new country, these pregnant women could use support. And so, the refugee baby showers began.
How does it work? First, refugee moms register for the shower through a partner organization, Gathering Humanity. Then, a group of volunteers plan the shower. Once volunteers have collected and sorted all the “gifts” for the shower, the moms are invited to come and “shop” for diapers and necessities, at no cost.
Not only do the women get diapers, each mom can shop for cribs, car seats, baby carriers, nursing bras, bath supplies, sanitary items and everything else she could possibly need for her baby. All items are either gently used donations or newly purchased off an Amazon wish list. Donors can also donate to refugees overseas via the Carry the Future link, set up at the shower. The baby showers also have live translation in three different languages, so the expectant mothers understand and feel empowered.
With each baby shower, Uzma and the team learned more about the needs of the resettled refugee women. Through their experience and observations, the volunteers began to develop more focused goals.
As donations of diapers grew, the need continued to grow as well. They started out by collecting 15,000 diapers, then 20,000 and finally, 30,000. While it was wonderful that they received so many in kind donations, it just wasn’t sustainable. Babies use a lot of diapers and many of the refugee women had multiple children. The expensive cycle of diaper replenishment wasn’t a solution. Uzma and her team began searching for a more sustainable way to help refugee moms and babies. The answer: reusable cloth diapers.
Cloth diapers also meant educating women on how to use them, as well as breaking down cultural barriers that may prevent women from wanting to use them. And, if the goal was sustainability, Uzma’s team added another tier through teaching and providing contraception to the moms.
Uzma shares: “I watched 4 of our pregnant mums, who were being educated in their own language on contraception, light up with inexpressible hope when they learned that contraception is POSSIBLE and AVAILABLE to them in America. I learned that we not only take a lot of tangible things for granted, but we also take a lot of knowledge for granted.”
The baby shower goes beyond supplying just material needs. In the theme of sustainability, these showers also educate women. A myriad of classes and workshops are offered on topics of breast feeding, baby wearing, car seat installation, financial literacy, use of cloth diapers, birth control, tobacco cessation and more. Partnerships with fellow NGOs and charities like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are paramount to the number of services and classes offered. These partners and local grass roots allies play an important role in creating a multilateral effort to support and create lasting change for the refugee moms.
Going one step further, refugee moms are given an opportunity to be assigned a mentor—a volunteer who can walk them through their new life and culture whether that be understanding bills, navigating public transportation, or practicing reading English. There’s even programs for Syrian bakers to sell their baked goods in order to become financially independent. The ultimate goal is self sufficiency and sustainability for each woman. Uzma explains she wants to empower women by teaching them to be independent.
Uzma’s hope is palpable even though she’s realistic. She speaks of the hardships the refugees face due to war and conflict and politics, but she finishes with an almost prayer-like reverie for peace: “One day, we won’t have to do all of this…one day.”
Today, however, refugees still need our help. There are several ways you can do something to help refugees. You can host a baby shower, hold a diaper drive, or donate to our Welcome Baby program.
Welcome Baby is Carry the Future’s largest program. If you would like to do something to sustain this program, please consider a monthly donation to Carry the Future. Setting up a monthly donation is easy and a great way to help refugee families!
Can’t donate? Click here to find out how you #candosomething to help refugees!