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Celebrating mothers in our community

Right now, more than ever, it feels as if everyone in the world could use a hug from their mother, grandmother, or someone else who feels like a mother to them. This Mother’s Day we got the chance to celebrate these women who mean so much to us all, including Grace, pictured above with her three daughters, Gloria, Safi, and Amen. When asked what they loved most about their mom, the girls did not hesitate. “She is beautiful, she is kind,” said 8-year-old Amen. “She protects us. When we aren’t doing the right thing or when we’re not listening, she’s still patient and teaches us the right thing to do,” said 12-year-old Gloria.

Grace and her three daughters at their home in Missoula. Photo: Helen Rolston-Clemmer/IRC

Grace and her family were resettled by the IRC to Missoula in late 2018. The refugee resettlement process is not an easy one and is often very stressful for families, even though they desperately want to resettle and start life again in a new place. Grace dreamed of coming to America and having access to opportunities for her family that would never have been available to them in a refugee camp in Rwanda. Looking back, Gloria remembers feeling a little overwhelmed in the beginning, and the pain of the many vaccinations they each had to receive before traveling. “Before we came here, they kept giving us shots and it really hurt. I didn’t like that at all. But it’s worth it because we are here and we are learning and we have new friends and are learning a new language.” Today Gloria has good friends at school and enjoys just about everything in the Missoula community. A highlight for Gloria and her sisters was visiting the Western Montana Fair last summer and riding on the swing ride, flying through the air while waving to their mother below.

When Grace and her family first arrived in Missoula, they met Tony and Elaine Higuera through the IRC Family Mentor program, which pairs newly arriving refugee families with volunteers to help them adapt and integrate into the fabric of Missoula. Grace and her daughters connected easily with the Higueras and today consider themselves to be part of each other’s families. Holidays and family celebrations are spent together and Elaine was even able to help Grace find a job at Target Range School, which all three of her daughters attend. Grace remembers when she first arrived in Missoula and met Tony and Elaine, saying “In the beginning it was very hard but I had someone to help me. Elaine and Tony. Every time when I think about them I thank god to give me this family. It’s very hard in a new country to get someone to help you. It was like my family. Now Elaine, she’s like my mother. I love her.”

Thanks to all the moms, grandmas, and “bonus” moms out there. We need you more than ever right now.