Refuge for Nations held its second Mother’s Day Event on May 11, in Durfee, Detroit; bringing together a cohort of Detroit’s local community and predominantly female entrepreneurs. The event was premised on female empowerment: struggles and accomplishments of women, which as keynote speaker, I had the privilege of speaking about:
(Keynote Speech, RFN 2019)
I’ve never done this before. I’ve never been asked to speak on the notion of the struggles women face, in conjunction with female empowerment; much less pay public homage, particularly to our mothers in reverence of Mother’s Day. So, to stand here before you all today, in a country I’ve never been to before, to share succinctly about a rising, salient topic – which is of personal importance – is deeply humbling and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
It has to be said that the female experience in this world is truly unique and can only resonate in-depth, particularly where struggles are concerned, by other women. You can tell the extent of hardship a woman has endured through the wisdom that she speaks and the irrevocable spirit of resistance and grit she possesses, to survive. I find it incredible that many women -who could otherwise succumb to whatever life has dealt them , enshrouded in self-pity, nerve-racked or hopelessness – in fact choose not to camp there.
Whether you’ve been expulsed from your traditional homelands, separated from everything/everyone you’ve ever known, ad-hoc job, financial, marital insecurities – whatever the circumstance that could prove self-defeating, there is something about the female spirit, that empowers her to conquer her circumstance. She learns to adapt. She learns to press on. Grace incarnate.
I’d like to now pay particular tribute to the Mothers in the building. As I mulled over how to begin speaking about the most beloved women in our lives, I remembered that the Persian poet Rumi once said ‘we are born of love, love is our mother’. I really analogised this: it’s as though when you push out new life, you push back your own cares, needs and wants. Your lives are no longer yours, for a good while at least. Your former priorities fall secondary to the primary needs of your children. Perhaps the love Rumi refers to points to this. To be a Mother is sacrifice. The availability and accessibility Mothers gift us is sacrificial, battling through their own struggles to just be present for us.
On behalf of your daughters and sons, we appreciate you. There are Mothers out there who turn up to their child’s parent teacher conference despite linguistic barriers, there are Mothers who give up dream careers, Mothers who forego sleep and neglect their own health to ensure that we never lack nor want. There sits among you Mothers who patiently advise and guide us through opportunities you were never entitled to, who encourage and equip us with a mindset that we are able to accomplish the very things you were held back from.
We see you, we acknowledge everything you’ve done and continue to do for us.
We love you. This event is an expression of that, for you all on your Day.
Refuge for Nations’ Mother’s Day event represented more than a showcase of cross-cultural talent. It is a ministry, that aims to connect and reach out to women who may traditionally limit themselves to the domestic sphere and equip them with skill sets that guarantee employment. It is a forum where they can establish friendships and partake in diverse cultures, whilst contributing to the local workforce. Fundamentally, Refuge For Nations stems from a love of Christ and recognisng the need to extend compassion towards a real need in their local community.
My personal highlight however, was Cynthia Khan herself. Born in Lahore, Pakistan , she and her family lived in Saudi Arabia for a decade, before immigrating to Canada and eventually the United States. It was this first-hand experience of multiple immigration experiences and her selfless heart that spurred on the Refuge For Nations cause, (in addition to the International Friendship Centre she also directs), panning across three different locations across Michigan .
‘Because of my love for Jesus, I have compassion for these women‘ she’d tell me, in the car whilst on the way to run errands, host and partake in meetings, yet still finding time to treat me to new clothes and new edible experiences in the run-up to the RFN 2019 Event – ‘ I’m not looking for anything out of this, I see Refuge as my passion project.’
I find Cythnia remarkable. Genuine altruism is hard to come by. Not many people get to uncover for themselves the principles such people live by, as they are typically known by their labels, connotations, titles. It was an amazing experience, staying with her family during my fortnight in Michigan; where I witnessed first-hand kindness, hospitality, and attempts to fatten me up through American-sized platters of Pakistani traditional cuisine.
Refuge For Nations is a worthy cause, and multiple members of the local Michigan community are aware of this. As a Brit coming to America for the first time, I was in awe of the sheer number of people who came forward to contribute to RFN’s 2019 Mother’s Day/Fashion Show event, from professional run-way fitters and local food caterers, to professional models showcasing hand-crafted ‘East-meets-West’ costumes and local vendors, performers, emcees. The local community of Detroit particularly came together in support of a reputable woman, spearheading a phenomenal work within her capabilities.
It is a beautiful movement I am grateful to have experienced.
For more information on the incredible work of RFN, visit their website https://refugefornations.com/
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