Mother's Day: Hopes and Dreams

Being in New York, I live some 2,500 miles away from my mom.  She is in Seattle embracing an active retirement with my dad and creating a wonderful second ‘career’ that involves living out a long time calling as a deacon.  I couldn’t be more proud of her for staying the course on her journey to the deaconate despite the demands of life and work, changes in the process, and I’m sure overcoming more than a few doubts that entered into her mind.

If I’m lucky, I make my way out west to visit a few times a year for our long talks in the kitchen, which are even more plentiful these days, and casual family dinners where we’ll catch up on health concerns, community news, and retell old childhood stories.

Her fortitude, compassion, creativity, great sense of humor and generous spirit are a few of the things I admire about her, and qualities that have shaped and influenced me as a young girl and an adult. 

My mom and my dad made many sacrifices for my two sisters and me to give us amazingly rich opportunities to be creative, see the world, receive top notch educations, become jocks, serve and value community and ultimately to tap into our own power and possibilities.

Working for Episcopal Relief & Development, I have the opportunity to hear other similar, inspiring stories of women and mothers who participate in many of our programs around the world, and how these programs touch their lives to unlock their greatest potential so that they can achieve their dreams of providing for themselves as well as their children.

An example that comes to mind is the story of Vilma Yancos, a mother who makes a weekly two-hour trip to attend a Savings Program in Guatemala, where she and 28 other women receive financial and business training to build their confidence for business.  With her new economic independence, Vilma hopes to help her daughters’ dreams come true by providing educational opportunities she was never able to have. And her children dream big: her 9-year-old wants to be a chef and her 10-year-old wants to be a doctor!

Meanwhile, half-way around the world, Episcopal Relief & Development is working with The Anglican Church of Burundi and Cornell University to focus on providing more nutrition for families, specifically children. The plan is to increase overall food production and improve the diversity of family diets through ‘kitchen gardens,’ a multi-tiered raised bed approach.

Over 60 women were trained in how to build and maintain these kitchen gardens over a five-month period.  But during this time, the number of gardens went from 60 to about 500 gardens! The kitchen garden really took hold and mothers in these groups can now begin to consistently provide more nutritious and healthy meals for their children- something all parents desire.  As a result, the entire community is healthier.

On Mother’s Day take pause.  Give thanks and share a story of your mom(s) whether biological or selected who offered you the possibility and hope to fulfill your dreams in life.  Remember and honor their powerful and inspiring spirits like Vilma, the women in Burundi, and my mom Polly.

I’ll likely be chatting with my mom from my apartment in Brooklyn wishing I was at her kitchen table, but grateful nonetheless.



Joy Shigaki is Senior Director for Advancement at Episcopal Relief & Development.


Images: Top, Joy Shigaki with her mother. Middle, Vilma sharing her excitement on providing education for her daughters. Last, A participant of the kitchen garden project in Burundi. 

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