Josephine: One Mother’s Strength
While Mother’s Day provides an opportunity to celebrate and honor the mothers in our lives, it also provides an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices mothers make across the world to create a better life for their children.
Josephine Yanseratou’s story is a poignant illustration of the lengths to which a mother will go to protect and provide for her children. “To be a good mom, you need to know how to respect your kids, stay with them and know how to talk to them,” Josephine said. Behind these simple words, there is an incredible story of strength.
Photo Credit: Emily Coyle/IRC
Since 2006, almost 300,000 people have been uprooted in Central African Republic amid ongoing violence between government forces and rebel groups. Josephine and her family were among them.
“We lived in constant fear when we were there,” Josephine said. “Every time we went to work, or even to get something to eat, we were afraid. We had no protection.”
When soldiers attacked Josephine’s village, they burned houses and killed villagers. She lost many members of her family, including her husband and all her older sisters. As the violence ensued, Josephine, a devoted mother, did the only thing she could do – she took her children, and ran.
“I had my three-month-old baby with me, on my back like we do in Africa,” Josephine said. “We did not see the hole. We fell, and I got up and kept running.”
Together with her three kids, Josephine fled to Cameroon where they spent five years before arriving in the United States three years ago. Today, Josephine lives in Tucson. She learned to read and write, and she found a job. Her kids go to school for the first time in their lives.
“In Africa we didn’t have a chance to go to school because there were so many problems,” Josephine said. “Here, kids can go to school. If a child wants to succeed, he will be able to.”
Josephine also stays fully engaged in whatever educational opportunities arise. “Whenever there are classes, I make sure to attend them,” Josephine said. “Whether the classes are for myself or for my children, I make sure I attend.”
The IRC in Tucson has worked to help Josephine succeed in her efforts to create a better life and opportunities for herself and her children. Josephine has participated in many of the job training classes at the IRC in Tucson, and IRC volunteers have been there to support her during hospital stays and with day-to-day needs.
“I want to thank them for everything they have done,” said Josephine. “I now know how to fill out a job application, and I can read and write a little. I will have to work and go to school simultaneously so my kids don’t suffer – when they ask for a dollar, I will have it to give to them.”
This Mother’s Day, the IRC in Tucson is honored to recognize Josephine’s courage and strength – and the perseverance of all the refugee mothers who have put their children before themselves.