A Home-based Success!
Lily Moo’s life began continents away from Next Door, and it was filled with struggle.
“We didn’t have enough for medical, we didn’t have enough for food, we didn’t have enough for clothing, everything was poor for us in Burma, my country,” Moo said.
Moo said she couldn’t even go to school.
“I told my mother I want to go to school. I saw people go to school and my mom didn’t have the money to take me there,” Moo said.
Seeking a better life, Moo’s family fled to Thailand where they lived in a refugee camp for ten years. While she was able to go to school there, Moo said it was hardly the life of freedom her family so desperately longed for. In 2007, with the help of immigration services, the opportunity for that freedom finally arrived – a move to the United States and connections with life-changing resources, like Next Door.
Next Door “opened my dreams”
Moo moved to Milwaukee in 2009 after spending two years in New York. She and her husband, Moo Wah, had their first child a year later and that is when Next Door entered their life.
Their son, Super Moo, was born six weeks premature and spent close to a month at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. While he was there, a number of organizations approached the family offering assistance. Moo said Next Door presented the best opportunity – an education for the parent and child through the agency’s home-based program.
“They opened my eyes, they opened my dreams, they encouraged me every week when they came,” Moo said.
Moo’s family – which later grew by two more children – needed the home-based program because they didn’t have transportation to get to one of Next Door’s early learning centers. They received 90-minute, weekly visits from Parent Educators, who brought toys to play with the kids and conducted learning activities. Moo recalls lessons on body parts, colors and shapes, and joining her children as she was still mastering English. And the support didn’t end there.
“They would take me anywhere I needed to go, if I had a doctor’s appointment, they would come and pick me up and drop me off, they helped me with everything,” Moo said.
“Everything” also included parenting skills, obtaining U.S. citizenship and guiding the family to its first home through Habitat for Humanity.
“I was moving from one apartment to the next, year after year, until I received services from Next Door,” Moo said. “I have a new home and it’s all because of my Parent Educator.”
Paying it Forward
Today, Moo, now 32, describes her life as “very, very higher than before” coming to Next Door. Her two boys – Super Moo, 6, and Tender Moo, 5 — transitioned to school at the Milwaukee Academy of Excellence. Moo says the boys love practicing spelling and math problems out loud while driving to do errands. Her three-year-old daughter, Sarena, is still at home but Moo plans to enroll her at Next Door when she turns four.
As for Moo, she decided to give back to Next Door by accepting a full-time job as a Parent Educator in the home-based program. She now works with families, just like her own.
“Because I had the experience and was taught through my Parent Educators, I wanted to share this experience and knowledge with my Burmese community,” Moo said. “I don’t want them to struggle like I did when I first arrived in the United States.”
Like her own parent educators did, Moo visits her assigned families once a week. She also takes them to appointments and helps them write payments for bills and rent. She says the most rewarding part of this job is being able to teach both the child and the parent, and build the relationship between the two.
“I’m feeling so good, everything is good,” Moo says.