Help a Mother Out
Selfie - family person
Her Inner Light - nature, trees
Her message to women everywhere - “Take care of yourself. It’s not your fault. You deserve better.”
“It was in giving that she received,” says Aggie Briscoe of her mother. “This encapsulates how my mother lived her life.” Aggie comes from a strong matrilineage of French Creole women who since the early 1900’s raised large families in the rural farming lands of East Texas. While men worked the fields, grandmothers, mothers and aunties watched each other's dozens of children and supported one another in tight, vibrant communities.
Today Aggie is herself a mother, a grandmother of nine (soon to be ten), and a great-grandmother of two. After a full career in computer programming, information consulting and teaching, with adventures living along the West Coast, Hawaii, and the Caribbean, Aggie retired in the Bay Area to take care of her grandchildren. When Aggie’s professor-psychologist daughter is teaching families how to combat trauma and consulting for nonprofit organizations, Aggie is joyfully nurturing her grandchildren. Aggie’s granddaughter thinks of Aggie as her best friend. “I feel very fortunate for our special bond,” Aggie says. "This was the kind of relationship I had with my own grandmothers. The stories they would tell me. The kind of women they were. Growing up around them, watching them, I learned who I was.”
True to the spirit of her matrilineage, Aggie cares not only about her own children but others as well. For seven years she has volunteered regularly with Help a Mother Out, a nonprofit whose mission is to secure wellbeing by providing families in need access to diapers. Water, food, shelter — we all know these to be basic necessities. Diapers? “Yes, diapers,” says Aggie. “Diapers are expensive, and for families in poverty, having enough diapers is a real problem.” In the years of infancy before a child is potty-trained, diapers are a huge expense. Choosing between food and diapers is a very real struggle for mothers in need. Not having enough diapers causes not only baby’s physical discomfort and illness. It also results in toxic stress: When a child experiences strong or prolonged suffering, the stress response systems change brain development and cause cognitive impairment. More than the child's toxic stress, when a mother can’t adequately provide for her child, she experiences guilt, anxiety and depression, which in turn often leads to diminishing mother-baby engagement. The resulting damage, both physical and social-emotional, cuts much, much deeper than a diaper rash or two. Aggie also points out, “When you don’t have diapers, daycare programs won’t take your baby. So now you can’t go to work and earn what you need to stay afloat.” Such a small thing — the diaper — but its lack creates a vicious cycle against the whole family’s wellbeing.
Unlike the recognized basic necessities, diapers are not funded by federal assistance programs. In 2009 two mothers, Lisa Truong and Rachel Fudge, saw that this need wasn’t being addressed. They organized a Mother’s Day diaper drive. The overwhelming support and diaper donations that came from mothers everywhere led them to found Help a Mother Out (HAMO). In the early days diapers were collected and distributed out of the trunks of their cars. Now Aggie regularly organizes and distributes diapers out of HAMO’s warehouse. Boxes of diapers go to an extensive list of family service agencies throughout the Bay Area that then make their way to mothers struggling to care for their babies. Aggie welcomes the hands on volunteering at the warehouse and dropping off diapers at key locations like a children’s hospital. With her professional expertise, she also implemented and manages a database system that keeps HAMO’s operations running through its latest milestone — 5 million diapers distributed. One clean tushie at a time to supporting a whole lot of families. Aggie says, “I was raised in a community where people could lean on each other. Volunteering with HAMO keeps me connected to that tradition.” Felt upon the tender bottoms of babes and through the strong spirits of mamas, Aggie’s efforts with HAMO give those in need a chance to thrive.
When asked about the best gift she’s ever received, Aggies answers, “The gift of being a mother, the gift of being part of a loving family.” In recognition of your mother, and all the mothers in your life, give love and growth here, and HAMO will send your honoree a card on your behalf.