A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of attending Able Works’ annual event supporting Able’s LiveAble program, the Women’s Celebration. The event, in addition to raising critical funds for Able, is squarely focused on female empowerment. The event brings together women from diverse communities, highlighting the commonalities of the female experience in Silicon Valley and the plight of women from the immigrant community. Able strives to create community and solidarity across racial and socio-economic lines around the common female experience in our region.
When we began the LiveAble program four years ago, our nation and community was emerging from the Great Recession which gripped the nation in 2009. During the recession, Able was engaged in an effort to rescue distressed low-income homeowners in danger of foreclosure. The work, while important, was arduous. However, we saved hundreds of homeowners. When the crisis subsided, we then began focusing on the most vulnerable populations in Silicon Valley: under-resourced students (which Able serves in our FutureProfits program) and young immigrant mothers. The LiveAble program was created. Four years on and seven cohorts later, the program continues to grow in numbers and in impact.
I don’t often attend the LiveAble cohort meetings (for obvious reasons). I hear the stories of the women told through the Able staff team. Each week I hear stories of struggle and redemption, resilience and fortitude. At the Women’s Celebration I met two LiveAble women each with incredible stories of challenge. Both have stories of overcoming incredibly difficult circumstances. Through their resilience, they are carving a pathway to a sustainable life for themselves and their families.
At the event I thought about the current national conversation about borders and walls. Apart from the politics and rhetoric, I thought about the mothers and families we serve. They are resourceful, hard working and deeply committed to their children. They remind me of the stories I heard from my own Italian and Irish family, immigrants on both sides, who came to the America a couple of generations ago to make a better life. They struggled, worked hard and stayed committed to overcoming many difficulties to create a life for themselves and their families. I’m the beneficiary of their hard work. The stories I hear about the LiveAble women are no different. I often struggle to understand why, as a nation, we don’t want these women and their families. In their faces I see my own ancestors who walked through the vast halls of Ellis Island seeking a better life. When I hear their stories, it compels me to continue the struggle to advocate for immigrant rights, for fair border and immigration policy. It also reminds me of why I do what I do in leading an organization such as Able Works.
I wish I had a good solution to solve the great divide around the topic of immigration. All I know is that when I see these resilient women, hear their stories, see their struggles it pushes me forward to fight for them. As the keynote speaker at the event a few weeks ago reminded us, when we enter into relationship with “the other” – we cannot help but emerge with a changed perspective. This weekend, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, will you join me in supporting these brave and resilient mothers?