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April 2, 2021, Detroit – In her work at Gianna House – which offers education and supportive programs to pregnant women and mothers of all ages – Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP, has seen many success stories. Recently, one of those stories was highlighted publicly when Ariel Jewell, a young mother working toward self-sufficiency, received the Live your Dream Award and a $3,000 college scholarship from Soroptimist International-Grosse Pointe during a virtual award ceremony.
Soroptimist International offers educational programs on issues that affect women, such as human trafficking. In addition, the organization provides mentoring and a variety of programs to support girls and women as they strive to meet their educational and career goals.
“Ariel came to us in 2019 on her last pregnancy and started taking classes,” Sister Theresa recalled. Now the mother of three, Ariel left an abusive relationship and found herself without a stable home. “She told me that she wanted to improve herself, so she signed up at Davenport College for a pre-nursing program,” Sister Theresa said. Now a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Ariel worked three jobs as a home health aide and saved $10,000 to buy an old house.
Ariel’s efforts to be self-sufficient paid off as organizations such as Soroptimist gave her some needed support. Individuals and organizations donated funds to help Ariel fix up her house and she continues to work toward providing a stable home for her children.
Ariel is one example of the pregnant women and mothers of any age who seek support from Gianna House. “We’re super-interested in helping them to be good moms,” Sister Theresa said. “We offer them classes in parenting and personal growth, as well as life skills,” such as obtaining jobs.
In her ministry at Gianna House, Sister Theresa focuses on the outreach program. “It gives me a venue to do what I wanted to do – focus on women’s growth,” she said. Gianna House offers four classes a week, Monday through Thursday. Women who take the classes earn “baby bucks” that allow them to purchase baby supplies.
During the pandemic, Sister Theresa said, Gianna has begun to offer online courses through a program called Brightcourse, which streams more than 100 classes focusing on areas such as pregnancy, infancy, toddlers, and life skills. “They can use that any day, any time, and pick classes that they want,” she explained. “We’re trying to figure out how we can integrate this with my program. It’s much simpler than Zoom.”
Starting in April, Sister Theresa hopes to offer courses that mothers who aren’t comfortable with online classes can take over their smart phones. “We send them a number that would link them to a lesson [involving] a half-hour video.”
Gianna House offers more than classes, though. It also offers the women a sense of community. Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the lock-down of Gianna House, Sister Theresa said, “the women used to love coming to Gianna House because it formed a support group for them. They were such a support group for each other.”
Sister Theresa said young mothers are always challenged, but this year has brought even greater problems. “Right now it’s harder with COVID because of the home schooling [the mothers] have to do.” She recalled a young woman who was pregnant, working on her own GED, and trying to home school her children. “These are the realities that they face,” she said.
But Sister Theresa also has many memories of women who overcame their challenges and obstacles and are now doing well in life. Alissa, a first-time mother, took sewing classes at Gianna House and, through those classes and her love for sewing, found a job as a seamstress. “I’m so excited that Gianna House showed me something I love to do, and a job came out of it based on my talking about the knowledge I knew from class.”
Monique, who attended classes at Gianna House since she became pregnant with her daughter, Serenity, spoke of the strong influence that Gianna House had on her life. “The classes they offer here are the classes I need to be a better me and to be as good a mom as I can be,” she said. “I also meet some other mothers here I can relate to. … Here we don’t judge each other no matter what. We build one another up. I can honestly say I am happy that Gianna House came into my life when it did.”
Feature photo: Monique, holding baby Serenity, is grateful for Gianna House and for the other mothers she has met during her classes there.