MILWAUKEE — What started out as a sisterhood to help refugee and migrant women adjust to their new home in Milwaukee, has grown to help solve social issues affecting women and families here and abroad.
MILAWA, which stands for Milwaukee African Women's Association, was formed 13 years ago with the purpose of giving women a home away from home.
On a Thursday evening, I was invited to dinner. The spread included traditional Joloff rice, chicken, fish, samosas and yam-yam cakes. More than a half dozen African countries were represented. Reine Assana, the current president of the organization, listed the countries represented.
"You have women all over Africa: Nigeria, Tanzania, Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana, Serra Leone, Uganda, Benin. "
Over the last decade, the cultural exchange and friendships formed pivoted to a new purpose.
"What started as a sisterhood, helping each other cope with the changes of being in a new place, now being a group vested in the community. That matters to all of us. In solving social causes and social issues," said Yollande Deacon.
Over the years, the women have supported a number of healthy initiatives in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania Liberia - but here at home, they are committed to helping African refugee and migrant families navigate life in Milwaukee.
"They are just opening up their eyes. It's like,'where am I?'" said Specioza Ndagire.
These women tirelessly give their time and resources to make sure many who feel lost and alone have someone they can depend on.
To learn more about MILAWA, click here.