I am reaching out for your support in helping fund IRIS's Mommy & Me program for refugee woman with pre-school age children. This program allows refugee women the opportunity to gain the language skills they need for long-term integration while giving their children the head start they need to eventually enter kindergarten . Without the aid of this program these Mothers may not get the language education they will need to be well adjusted, productive, happy members of society. These are women and children that IRIS has welcomed to Connecticut in the past few years. In 2016 alone, IRIS welcomed a record 530 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Congo, Iraq and beyond. These are people who have fled their home countries because of persecution and conflict. This record number of refugees means there are mom's and children who are in need of our program but due to funding constraints and lack of an adequately sized permanent space are relegated to a long waiting list that could take years to make their way through.
My introduction to IRIS's Mommy & Me program started 7 months ago when I decided to volunteer a couple hours a week. That couple of hours quickly turned into nearly 20 hours a week as I got to know the mom's and their children in the program and saw the huge impact it made upon the lives of these families. Mom's who were finally able to venture out of their homes and neighborhoods, learn the bus system, meet other women outside of their families or small communities because of the language skills they were finally able to acquire and the opportunity to, for a short time, not be the sole caregiver for young children. These are moms that might otherwise not get out to language classes due to lack of access to daycare services or because of cultural expectations that do not allow them to attend classes with men outside of their family. This program allows them the freedom to learn amongst other women in similar situations and to learn to trust others with the care of their children while allowing their kids to gain social and language skills needed for further education and integration into American society. This program has become my passion. There is not a day that I leave "my kids" not feeling overjoyed, optimistic for their futures, excited for the next day (and happily exhausted!).
While this program is exceptional it also survives with very little funding. Our summer Mommy & Me program moved between three different small donated spaces and subsisted on a mere budget of only $500.00. For the children especially, the constant moving and lack of stability makes it difficult to maintain an environment of trust and safety while providing the stability that children need to grow and learn. The cost of learning materials for the mom's and food and learning supplies as well as toys that may not have already been donated is a large expense and one that the staff and volunteers often personally contribute to due to lack of funding. That does not take into account the urgent need for a permanent space. This is an endeavor that can not be taken on without philanthropy from generous companies and private donors from outside IRIS.