She traveled from around the world with her family of eight, seeking a safe place to raise her children. The family had lived in a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo for many years; when they left, her youngest was just eight months old.
The family’s final destination would be a community in Pima County, Southern Arizona, a region in the northernmost section of the Sonoran Desert. Many indigenous families live here, and it is a popular place for refugee families from Africa and the Middle East. This in part because of the weather and the affordable cost of living, said Leslie, at our Diaper Drop the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona.
The area, however, is also riddled with hardship: 1 in 3 children in Pima County are living in poverty; families not living in poverty most often live paycheck to paycheck.
“It’s notoriously hot for 6 months of the year, our winters are temperate,” Leslie said. “The climate ... attracts families who struggle economically. You can survive a winter here, even if you cannot afford heating, or are homeless.”
The Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona currently serves Pima and 9 other surrounding counties. It works in partnership with the University of Arizona's Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA) on providing resources to such families, tracking the impact and collecting recipient feedback, Leslie said. Through this partnership and with the help of Jake’s Diapers, the diaper bank launched a pilot program to provide cloth diaper kits to interested families, providing a sustainable solution to families who struggle with chronic diaper shortage.
The refugee resettlement process is a stressful time for mothers, Leslie said. Within just 3 to 6 months, refugees must become financially self-sufficient, an especially difficult task for parents balancing both their own and their children’s needs.
“Meeting the needs of your child during the resettlement process can be an emotional experience because there are few choices parents get to make on behalf of their children’s material needs,” Leslie said. “This is because clothing, diapers and other necessities are donated to them or bought for them through the government. Until recently, refugee parents had to use disposable diapers because there was no cloth option provided to them.”
With the donation of cloth diaper kits from Jake’s Diapers, the diaper bank was able to immediately provide cloth kits to families in starting its pilot program with BARA, Leslie said.
Jake’s Diapers’ continued support has made it possible to carry on with the pilot with BARA, include more families in the research, and develop a strategy for the development of a cloth distribution program.
More than 40 families have been using the kits, she said, and have been reporting economic relief, and a significant reduction in family stress, as they are never OUT of diapers. The mother who traveled with her children from that refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo had only used cloth diapers, and revealed obvious relief with the donation.
“When she was given the cloth diaper kit, her eyes brimmed with tears, noting how ‘beautiful’ her new cloth kit was,” according to BARA researchers. “She was overjoyed that her baby could be kept in cloth diapers. She was holding her baby and smiling as she walked away with her new cloth kit.”
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