Stories From Smaller Nonprofits: Asylee Women Enterprise (AWE)


StarsSome how it seems fitting that the last in Diva Marketing's 2011 Shining A Light on smaller nonprofits series should highlight an organization that helps courageous women find hope at the start of a new chapter in their lives. Somehow it seems fitting that this NPO goes by the name of AWE. 

Awe molly corbett
Molly Corbett
 is our story teller for this special post.

She is the founder and executive director of Asylee Women Enterprise (AWE). Molly has worked in the nonprofit sector for 20 years.  She started as a community organizer and has worked with various social service and social justice organizations. Prior to AWE she was the Director of Programs and Grants at the Ventura County Community Foundation prior to moving to Baltimore.  For the past ten years Molly has worked as a consultant to social justice organizations in the Baltimore area.

Molly Corbett - Most of us are very familiar with the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph. Mary was pregnant, they were far from home and no one would take them in. Well, last year I lived through a modern day Christmas story.

It was the week between Christmas and New Years, I received a call from the former board member of an organization that I was currently working with that serves people seeking asylum in the United States. She answered the Help Line at United Way and had received a call from a small nonprofit that was inquiring about homeless shelters.

A young, very pregnant, Afghani woman had appeared on their doorstep and they had no place for her to stay.  The former board member said she had called several other nonprofits and they were closed for the week or working with a very small staff and were unable to help her. 

She told me that Amina* had just arrived in the United States. She was forced to flee Afghanistan because she was a pregnant, unmarried woman and her life was in danger. We both knew that Amina would be re-traumatized by going to a shelter and that she was most likely very fearful of men. I said I would call the Benedictine Sisters of Baltimore, a small women’s religious community, which I had been working with for many years. 

Awe_little girl and women hand
The Sisters agreed to take Amina and give her shelter. Little did we know that six days later she would give birth to a beautiful baby boy. Amina and her son continue to live with the Sisters.

What I realized when I saw the connection between Amina and the Sisters was that what many asylee (A non-citizen of a country who has been granted asylum in that country.) women need is a sense of community – a family.  Mary had Joseph with her and now I saw how important it was for Amina to have a new family with her. 

Women and men who come here seeking asylum are here legally but do not receive any government benefits until their asylum has been decided. They are not even eligible for a work permit until at least 180 days after their first asylum hearing. The asylum process for most people takes 2 years. During this time they are vulnerable, lonely and destitute. They flee their homeland with little more than the clothes off their back. They were nurses, teachers, business women and community activists back home – now they have nothing. 

The Asylee Women Enterprise helps find safe and nurturing housing, provides a community of women to help them on their long journey to freedom here in the United States. They fled because they were persecuted back home for their religion, gender, ethnicity, political beliefs or sexual orientation. For Amina and for the thousands of other women like her, she did not come for a better life – she came to save her life.

My personal experience with Amina helped me to vision the possibility for AWE. We now house four women; there are 13 women currently on the waiting list for housing. In addition, we have 10-15 other women who join us regularly for a sense of community and family.

Social Media Lessons and Challenges

Since we are a new organization we are careful in planning our web presence and social media strategy.  We hope to use social media to educate and engage others.  Utilizing Facebook, VolunteerSpot and the website will allow me to maximize my time in spreading the word about Asylee women and AWE and attract others to our organization.

Backstory from Toby: When Molly and and I were planning this post I asked for a couple of photos. She was hesitant to show the women's faces. Not that it would necessarily intrude on Awe_hands holding handsprivacy, but that it might put the women in danger. We decided that photos of "hands" might be the way to go. 

Somehow it seems especially fitting that a photo of "hands holding hands" end our special holiday series that brought some wonderful smaller nonprofits to your attention.

Our hope is that one NPO may have touched your heart and that led to you opening your purse (or wallet) to help make other's 2012 travels just a little gentler.

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More From Asylee Women Enterprise (AWE)




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You have a good heart. Amina is lucky to find help inspite the difficulty she faced. Good luck to your vision. And for those women in the waiting list, my prayers are with them.

Posted by: How to Blog on Jan 10, 2012 4:50:08 AM

Thank you for your kind words and for AWE your support.

Posted by: Toby @tobydiva on Jan 14, 2012 8:52:00 AM

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