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A Mother’s Look into the Future: Not Just Surviving but Thriving

JP Alumni Fellow Ifrah Abdalla has been working since childhood — and her daughter’s happiness is her ultimate goal.

Ifrah Abdalla is a co-director of the nonprofit Weaving Opportunities Vocalizing Anti-racist Narratives (WOVAN), which is dedicated to disrupting homelessness through an anti-racist framework. Also a mother of one, she is a 2019 JP St. Paul alum and 2022 Alumni Fellow.

When she led a powerful conversation with family and community curator and author Mia Birdsong to close the 2022 JP Virtual Alumni Summit, she clearly showed how dedicated she is to helping right the wrongs in the systems that harm so many mothers and their families and to being a changemaker in her own community.

In this interview, it’s also clear that her daughter’s happiness is her ultimate goal.

What dreams are you working to realize?

My dreams are to become a successful business owner. By that, I mean provide a comfortable life for me and my daughter and work towards preparing for retirement.

What are you most anticipating about your future? Your child’s future?

Comfortability. I want to provide my daughter a life of privilege, where she can attend college and not worry about loans — and truly follow her passion rather than focusing on surviving financially. It’s hard to do both, unfortunately.

For myself, I anticipate comfort. I know I keep repeating that, but that’s all I want. I have been working since I was 14 and helping with my siblings much earlier than that. And before I knew it, I was a mom myself. I just want to relax one day and not worry about bills, knowing that I have money saved in case I ever come across an emergency.

What do people wrongly assume about single moms?

That we are lazy, irresponsible, and live off welfare. But that’s far from the truth. Some of the most successful, most hard-working women I have been mentored by are great community leaders and single mothers.

“Mothers can’t attend school when they can’t afford childcare.”

What should public policymakers prioritize so that single moms can fairly reach economic mobility?

Free childcare, free education, and financial literacy guidance with a personal advisor. With that, I believe any mother could be successful. Childcare is one of the biggest barriers because of cost, and mothers can’t attend school when they can’t afford childcare.

What’s one of your most memorable JP experiences?

I suffered from separation anxiety when my daughter started preschool downstairs [in JP St. Paul’s Child Development Center]. My family coach, Ciara, and both teachers really took the time to be patient with me. I was a little crazy at first, calling and emailing throughout the day. And they answered all my questions and would give me tips about how to deal with my anxiety. My family coach even helped me get therapy, and that was the first time I ever did therapy.

What do you hope your child will remember about JP years down the line?

I plan to be honest with my daughter about what led us to JP — and just how much it changed both of our lives. We were homeless when we entered. I know she will remember (because she still does) the parties she had with the neighbors, the friends she made that she still keeps in contact with.

How would you describe your experience in the JP mom community?

Amazing. Of course, you have ups and downs, but it is truly a big part of my success now. It’s also the foundation for how I learned to live on my own while pursuing my education in a safe space where my daughter loved her neighbors.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

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