Maternity Care Coalition’s MOMobile Healthy Families America (HFA) program hosts an annual program-wide socialization day for clients. The FREE event allows clients and Advocates to mingle and provides a setting for bonds to form between adults and children. Vendors are invited to connect clients with free information and resources. Angie Bellon, MOMobile HFA Advocate at our North Phladelphia site, shares her experience from the day below.
The bus coughed up smoke, shook a little, trembled and the engine finally stopped. The driver, Mike, a big guy from West Philly, pushed the doors open and everything came alive. There were many noises, of people moving, different languages spoken by mothers giving directions to their children, all of whom were desperate to get their feet on the grass and enjoy the anticipated party. Thus began the adventure, the annual encounter of families and MCC staff for the MOMobile Healthy Families America (HFA) program at Smith Memorial Playground!
As we got off the bus, we saw MCC’s white tents decorated, with resource tables set up by Health Partners Plans and Philly Dream Center where families were provided information and could choose from the various giveaways. The temperature hadn’t quite reached ninety degrees, but the humidity made it feel as if the thermometer was cranking up. The children, unimpeded, bursting with all the energy they hold in them, ran to the playground. Some mothers followed, others stood behind letting the little ones be with their new friends, caring for the new babies still on their arms or sleeping in strollers.
I find it all so interesting, watching the children negotiate the intricacies of a multicultural world, communicating without the interference of adults. There were kids with different backgrounds, many from the United States, Puerto Rico and as far as Congo, Egypt, Algeria, Bengali, Gulf of India, Korea. There were also families from Countries South of the border such as El Salvador, and Mexico. The children were all smiles, engaging with each other although they didn’t speak the same languages. Meanwhile, the mothers chose their spots, all intertwined together. Scattered over the park, parents told the tales of their families, speaking of their lives, their children, voicing what matters to them while listening to a local musician. A young mother from Congo, dressed in the typical outfit of her tribe, took a seat next to her new friend, a woman from another African nation who was part of he HFA program in Delaware County, and they began speaking to each other in French. In another area, there were young women from Algeria and the mother of an HFA participant that showed up in a traditional Kabyle robe, filled with beautiful details we all admired.
As the morning progressed, children played with their hula-hoops, competing to see whose circling could last the longest. After presentations, staff and families from across the sites became acquainted, and the hour of literacy arrived. We grouped the children for story time, a story that taught them the name of fruits in three different languages: English, Arabic and Spanish. One of the participants voluntered to add French words for all the fruits described. The idea was to make them aware of a world that is diverse and colorful, a house to a humanity that couldn’t exist without them all.
We served lunch, some children wanting more than others, all pleased in the end. For dessert, families enjoyed mango and strawberry Italian water ice. Both flavors attracted long lines, drawing local children to the HFA Socialization. It was great to have enough to share—everyone was happy. The volunteers of Philly Dreams Center and Aetna Better Health painted the hands and faces of all children enjoying the festivities.
We took a picture of the staff to keep the moment alive, with joy on our faces, aware of the importance of our mission, grateful for the opportunity to serve, to foster good messages and the opportunity to help mold the future of these young families.
It began to get cloudy and thunder announced that rain would be here soon. Mike was readily waiting by his bus. Time to go; each group is by its transport. We said our goodbyes, the kids waving to their new friends, the mothers attention turned to them, once again.
The day was spent well, gone, a sense of happiness in the air.