Mama Rita's story
Supporting one another in the community is central to the Ubuntu philosophy, and something that volunteer and mum Mama Rita fully embraces.
The Ubuntu Empowering Mothers project offers a variety of programs for women and their families.
Through assistance with employment pathways, cooking, English language classes, and sport, the project provides invaluable and life changing support services and brings families closer together.
Starting as a volunteer in 2019 with the Afri-Aus Care centre in Dandenong, Mama Rita gained employment as an NDIS advocate and spokeswoman for the Empowering African Women Group.
Through Afri-Aus Care Mama Rita also works as a translator, accompanying other African-Australian women while they attend medical appointments and English language classes. This support is something Mama Rita is currently offering to her cousin who is living in palliative care.
Providing support is never a burden for Mama Rita, but simply an unquestionable part of what you do for you family and your community.
Mama Rita describes the unwavering sense of duty and the selfless support the women provide each other, which is encompassed by the ‘Ubuntu’ philosophy.
“It’s about sharing life together – if you’re in pain you need to be with your people”.
“It’s duty, it’s what you do, it’s love”.
For young people, including Mama Rita’s sons, the project connects them with sports programs such as the Black Rhinos basketball team, which was established by Afri-Aus Care. By engaging young people using the power of sport they can be provided with essential social connections and much-needed support.
“My boys and girls love playing soccer and basketball. It gives them support and activities to do.”
Mama Rita’s daughters have also been able to gain employment, working as support worker for women living with a disability through the Afri-Aus Care centre. Having a secure income has been life changing for her children, providing them with stability and financial security that they didn’t have before.
The project is grounded in the African philosophy of Ubuntu which emphasises the importance of connections and strong relationships between individuals, families and communities and is often described by the statement ‘I am because we are’.
The Ubuntu Empowering Mothers Project helps build the capacity of African-Australian mothers to use Ubuntu to strengthen family, community and societal relationships and to support young people to live fulfilling lives.
The project is also being delivered in Melbourne’s west by The Australian-African Foundation for Retention and Opportunity (AAFRO). Both Afri-Aus Care and AAFRO work in partnership with the University of Melbourne, who are evaluating the program’s impact.
The Empowering Mothers project received $516,000 in funding from the Victorian Government, with project partners also contributing $204,000.
For anyone thinking about taking part in the program, Rita emphasises the importance of being part of a community, to have people you can lean on and being there so others can lean on you.
“I encourage anyone to come take part in this project – as Ubuntu, as family, as community, you have to be one.”