May 07, 2020
A parent's journey with Friends–Boston.
My name is Kiyana Nelson, and my daughter Kamara has been a part of Friends of the Children–Boston for the last six years. I was so excited when I was asked to be the keynote speaker at this year’s 15th Annual Friend Raiser on May 7, 2020.
But because of COVID-19, I wouldn’t be able to meet you all in person. So I want to share my story with you here.
I grew up with a hardworking mom who always told me to not depend on anyone, work hard, and put family first. Because of that, I was always very driven and goal-oriented, and when I became a mother, I made a commitment to always put my children first. I have big dreams for myself and for my children. And even on the worst of days, I never lose focus.
There have been up’s and down’s in my life. I survived abusive relationships, job losses, and homelessness. I often think back to how my children and I have been able to get through the tough times – Friends of the Children–Boston was by our side for so many of those challenges.
When I first learned about Friends of the Children–Boston, Kamara was in kindergarten, and we were living in a domestic violence shelter. Kamara has always been very intelligent and caring, but she struggled with being able to communicate her feelings. When she got frustrated, she would hit her sister or her friends and teachers at school. I met the team from Friends–Boston, who told me that Kamara had been selected to be a part of the program and if I said yes, she would have a mentor who would work with her and our family until she graduates from high school. So I signed up.
Friends–Boston was true to their word – they have been there for us for the last six years. Kamara’s mentor, Mary Kate, has been with her for five years now. She is so consistent and patient with her and understands what Kamara needs in order to succeed. She knew that Kamara had a hard time trusting people, but she never stopped trying. Now, she is one of few people Kamara trusts to help her. With Mary Kate’s help, Kamara learned to use words to express her frustrations and is now more confident in herself. She is doing so well in school and looks forward to seeing Mary Kate every week.
Mary Kate has also been there for me through some tough times over the last few years. We were evicted from our last apartment, and Massachusetts's Department of Children and Families (DCF) got involved. My girls had to be put in foster care while I found housing for us. Mary Kate went to all of the court dates and meetings with me, and she encouraged me when I felt frustrated. When my girls were in foster care and I couldn’t see them, she showed up every week to see Kamara and her sister making sure that they were okay. She was an advocate for our family in front of DCF and made sure that I was supported when I got back on track.
Mary Kate and Friends of the Children–Boston are my partners in making sure my children succeed. And because of their support of our entire family, I can continue to focus on my personal goals. I am very proud to say that I have been able to continue my education, and if all goes well, I will graduate with my Associate Degree in Business Management from Southern New Hampshire University before the end of the summer. The work that Friends–Boston is doing is helping our entire family.
I believe we all have a responsibility to give back. I work hard to be a good example for my three children, and I now try to give back and help other people who might have the same struggles we had. And I know no matter what happens in the future, Friends of the Children–Boston will continue to be there for me and my family, and Mary Kate will always be someone Kamara can turn to.
Thank you for supporting Friends of the Children–Boston. I hope to meet some of you in person one day!
Kiyana Nelson, Parent to an Achiever in the Friends of the Children–Boston program
“I am very proud to say that I have been able to continue my education, and if all goes well, I will graduate with my Associate Degree in Business Management from Southern New Hampshire University before the end of the summer. The work that Friends–Boston is doing is helping our entire family.”