The Parent of the Year Award, now in its 12th year, allows students to recognize their parents for the help and support they’ve given throughout the students’ lives. UofL students were encouraged to nominate a family member and a selection committee judged their essays and came to a consensus on the 2019 award recipient: Farhiya Abasheikh, mother to Shukri Abdow, was one of more than 60 parents nominated for this year’s award.
Students nominate their parents by writing a letter and then submitting it to a committee of UofL staff for consideration. Each nominee received a small plaque and a rolled scroll that included his or her child’s nomination letter. Dr. Glenn Gittings and Dr. Angela Taylor read excerpts from some of the letters that highlighted parents’ accomplishments.
In her letter, Shukri Abdow stated that her biggest role model was not Rosa Parks nor Bill Gates, but her Mother. Farhiya and her family were immigrants from Somalia chasing the "American Dream." Abdow said her Mother was not fortunate enough to obtain an education in the United States and has always taught her to value the privilege of receiving an education.
Farhiya took home a large plaque and a copy of Chelsea’s nomination letter. She and her family will be featured on the 2020 UofL Parents Association calendar and are invited to return to Family Weekend 2020 as a family sponsored by Commonwealth Credit Union.
Read the letter below:
My biggest role model is not Rosa Parks nor Bill Gates, but my Mother. A brave, unemployed, immigrant raising nine children. My Mother was born and raised in Mogadishu, Somalia, a place now known as an endless warzone by the media. Once the Civil War broke out, in our native country of Somalia my Mother and my Grandmother sought refuge in a Kenyan refugee camp. There they lived in a tent for six years and were provided with rations, then they were granted the opportunity to immigrate to the United States of America.
My Mother and Grandmother came to a foreign country with nothing, but the hope of the “American Dream”. My Mother and Grandmother settled in Atlanta, Georgia. My Mother then met my Father got married. My parents’ marriage wasn’t as authentic as those I saw in movies of perfect families. Their marriage simply reflected their desire to start a family, where they could raise their children with their shared Somali culture and Islamic beliefs. As tension arose in my parents’ marriage, my Mother did all she could to protect my siblings and I from hearing their arguments. My Mother distracted us by playing a cartoon on the television while my parents settled their disputes. But as children we still had questions, but my Mother just reassured us that it was a subtle disagreement. These arguments progressed over months, my Mother’s protection could only save us from so much. A marriage without love isn't realistic nor will it last. This led to my parents’ divorce. Our home felt officially broken. The divorce papers were signed. My Father was gone. But my Mother, she was still there. She always was.
My Mother was a stay-at-home Mom and has never worked a day in her life, but without my Father she had to step up to support us. She struggled in her morning courses of English as a Second Language that she attended while my siblings and I were at school. My Mother was dreading for a job to turn up. After weeks of waiting my Mother had to turn to government aid to get assistance. Given our living circumstances, we were accepted into SNAP, Medicaid, 3Cs, and WIC. This lifted a burden off of my Mother’s shoulders, she still had to pay rent, water, and electric bills. Eventually a job turned up for my Mother, she worked at a nursing home from 3:30 to 9:30, seven days a week with every other weekend off. With the help of 3Cs she did not have to worry about paying for daycare expenses, only a co-pay of twenty dollars a week.
Given all the hours my Mom worked we cherished every Moment we spent together; whether it is getting ready for school or eating a meal together. On the weekends we spent seven hours at daycare. I was constantly jealous of the other kids who spent less time in daycare, resulting in more time with their families. I expressed this feeling to my Mother, who reassured me by stating to appreciate all I had in life, because there is someone who has it much worse.
During my Mothers weekends off work my siblings and I enjoyed watching our VCR copy of The Parent Trap. The Parent Trap was the only film that portrayed a happy ending for divorced parents. As stubborn children we desperately waited for our family’s happy ending.
As we were adapting to our new lifestyle with our Mother working and going to daycare, but there were more changes occurring. My Mother met her significant other four years after my parents’ divorce, a year later she was pregnant with a baby girl. My Mother was a high risk patient due to my baby sister having a congenital heart defect. During my Mother's pregnancy she became diabetic leading to preeclampsia. My Mother had to quit her job in order to be on bed rest, but again, my Mother hid her pain. She kept it together for her seven children. After my sister was born she was immediately rushed into open heart surgery. My sister spent the first three months of her life in the hospital going through surgery after surgery, having a total of three open heart surgeries in a one year span. Sunup to sundown, my Mother was focused on my sister’s wellbeing from giving her daily feeds through her gastrostomy tube to making sure her heart rate was monitored with a post oximeter. The birth of my sister stripped my Mother with naivety as she was faced with daily struggles, but ignoring the negatives my Mother kept moving forward.
My Mother is strong, throughout all her hardships she has never shed a tear in front of my siblings and I. Ensuring to us she had it together, though her whole world was falling apart. I thank my Mother for all that she’s sacrificed for me. She has built me into the person I am today. My Mother was not fortunate enough to obtain an education here, thus she has always valued the privilege of education. Whether I was learning the alphabet or applying for college my Mother has always held my education as one of her top priorities. Without my hooyoo macaan I would not be the woman I am today.
Photos from Cardinal Family weekend are available online.