We’ve seen many brave mothers this past year. Women who embody a mother role: offering support, love, and caretaking for their community and families.
In honor of Mother’s Day, Upwardly Global is showcasing amazing working women and caregivers (from Vietnam, Ukraine, and South Sudan) who overcame extraordinary barriers to restart their careers in jobs that align with their education, passion and skill set.
Read their stories below, and please consider donating in honor of a mother in your life. The funds we raise will support nearly 1,000 women, giving them access to coaching and career training, upskilling, mentorship and networking opportunities.
Au Nguyen’s mother was raised in a small town in Vietnam and loved learning new things. But her school was bombed in the turmoil of the Vietnam War. At the age of 10, she left home in search of safety in a town she had to walk to several miles away. While there, she was given the chance to work as a nanny for the family of an American officer, and was able to continue her schooling in safety.
Throughout her life, Au’s mother was aware of the patriarchal assumptions that her society held about women. When she had her daughters, she knew she wanted them to grow up to be independent women, and named them both after birds, hoping it would ensure their freedom.
Her mother’s example and her hopes for her daughters gave Au the confidence to move to the United States. But when she arrived, she and her husband found themselves alone in a new country with dwindling funds. With no support system, no income, and pregnant with her son, Au was unsure where to turn.
With the help of Upwardly Global, Au was hired in her first professional job in the United States. “The ability to work and grow in my career has been a source of strength, and helped me meet challenges ever since then,” Au says. “When you support UpGlo, you all are creating the same hope for lots of other immigrant women and mothers. I am now so pleased to serve on the Board and give back!”
Au is now the proud mother of a four-year-old son, and calls being his mom “an endless joy.” She credits Upwardly Global with improving her abilities as a mother and a professional, saying “For me, they’re interconnected. They require resilience, solution seeking and innovation – all transferable skills.”
Olena Ostasheva was born and raised in Ukraine, and came to the United States just 9 years ago, with most of her friends and family still in her home country. Growing up, Olena strongly valued education. Her mother, an art historian, “instilled in me an appreciation for continuous learning,” she says. “Mother’s Day is special for me, because it’s a day I remember how my Mom has shaped the woman that I am, and the life that I get to live today. Ten years ago, she inspired me to leave our home in Ukraine, in order to pursue higher education and a career here in the States. While initially, I was terrified of the unknown, I am proud to have advanced in my career in one of the most influential countries in the world, thanks to her. And now, I give back.”
Olena is a longtime volunteer with Upwardly Global and recently joined the Leadership Council. As an immigrant herself, Olena was fiercely dedicated to Upwardly Global’s mission of finding jobs that appropriately match the education and skills that newcomers bring to this country. But she never imagined that our work with Ukrainian refugees would affect her so personally. It wasn’t until the war broke out in her home country that she was faced with the enormous task of helping her mother, Nataliya, evacuate to safety in the U.S.
Olena and her mother are now resettled safely, but many of their friends and family are either fighting to protect her country or fleeing Ukraine (often with their children) to find safety. While neighboring countries have been welcoming, her loved ones know that even under the best intentions, this welcome may not last. This is why, despite juggling the concerns of their children, family and fear, these displaced people (mostly women, 60% of whom are college educated) are hoping to find work soon.
As the United States accepts up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, countless women and mothers will need support with regaining their self-sufficiency, and obtaining economic mobility and inclusion in their new country. Securing a job that aligns with their skillset is crucial. Upwardly Global has helped over 750 refugees from Ukraine find jobs that align with their credentials to date, and continues to place more immigrants and refugees in new jobs every day.
Ivana Mousa was confident in her career in her home country of Sudan, working for 15 years as a radio news anchor reporting on gender inequality. The job was dangerous, but she pursued it because of her passion for capturing and elevating powerful stories. Through her work, she became an inspiration to other mothers and young women who saw themselves in her, strong and resilient.
When Ivana arrived in the United States alone and pregnant with her second child, she found it nearly impossible to find a job that aligned with her passion. After escaping the unrest in South Sudan, Ivana tried to restart her career in journalism in New York. “I was hopeful because I was in the land of freedom, equality, and opportunity,” says Ivana. “But getting a foothold in the industry was difficult. Without a support system, finding a job I was passionate about proved impossible. I was alone with my young son, pregnant with my second, navigating a pandemic and battling the feelings of displacement.”
Since working with Upwardly Global, Ivana has landed a job as a case manager, helping women and girls in New York City. “This community, every donor, volunteer, partner and supporter, helped make it possible for me to secure my first professional job in the U.S.,” Ivana says. “In my new role, I now get to pass on the hope that you all have given me, and invest that into other women here in my new city. I can’t tell you how grateful and excited I am to use my skills, experiences, and empathy to help others. This is more than just a job. It’s an opportunity for me to provide for my family and give back to my community – thank you for helping me to get here.”
Watch Ivana’s story here.
What does Mother’s Day mean to you?