Carla Miller and Uzma Jafri  · 

A Muslim Doctor and British Immigrant Orchestrate a Bi-Annual Baby Shower for Refugees

You Can Help

Edited by Nicole Taylor
Photography by Sherianne Schow
Uzma Jafri
Uzma Jafri at the Bi-annual Refugee Baby Shower



I got involved in refugee work during those late nights of breastfeeding one of my kids - during the Syrian refugee crisis. And rather than worry about how down in the mom dumps I was feeling, it was easier to feel depressed for other people because, for others, you can do something.

So, I got involved with overseas trips and helping local refugees.

I was inspired by somebody I worked with. She had hosted a baby shower for a bunch of refugee women that were in temporary housing in Greece. So part of what our organization started doing was baby kits for moms. We dropped them off at the refugee camps. We wanted moms to have everything they needed for their babies. It was all in a plastic container so the snakes couldn’t get to it, the water couldn’t get to it, and everything was in one spot.

Back home, we had requests on a perpetual basis for diapers, car seats, and cribs for the women settled in the US. Eventually, I felt like the donors were going to burn out and we wouldn’t be able to sustain it. And because April showers bring May flowers, I created the first baby shower in April. It was a ragtag, seat of my pants kind of thing. And, you know, angels popped up in the community who were like, Oh, we love this idea. We want to help. And those same angels are with me today. Like my British short haired, blonde twin - now my co-coordinator.


Carla Miller
Carla Miller and another volunteer, organizing donated baby clothes. Carla Miller and another volunteer, organizing donated baby clothes.

I became a US citizen about seven years ago. I was an immigrant, not a refugee. I came from England where I had a fine job. I lived in a house with my parents, had roast dinner every Sunday. I was fleeing nothing. But even after getting married to an American I was apart from my husband for a year waiting for immigration paperwork to be approved. It was a rough process. And I’m somebody who’s never been on the wrong side of the government, never had my documents destroyed, never had to flee anything. I had all my ducks in a row. And it still took a whole year after I was married to get all that paperwork done. So I knew how hard the process was, and as I was telling people about it they were astounded. They had no idea that it was that hard for somebody to move to the States. I became a US citizen right around the time of the Muslim ban.

I was incensed because I knew that the people making the decisions had no idea what it was like to emigrate to the States.

It hit home. It felt like the life that I planned out for myself could be taken away from me in a twenty minute interview with someone who didn’t know me. They could think I was lying and could just stop my life from happening, right there right then. It made me sick in my soul. So the idea that somebody at the top of the government could just say, “Do you know what, I don’t want you to come to my country. Even though you’ve been through all this paperwork, and you’ve proved all these things, I’ve just decided that because you’re from this place in the world, you don’t get to come to the USA.” I was just livid. I was livid that somebody could do that without understanding the ramifications of what they were doing.

The night I became an American citizen, there was a silent protest at the mosque on ASU campus. My husband and I went down there, joined in Friday prayers, and sat with all of our Muslim brothers and sisters. We made a wall around them while they prayed. That was the point I realized despite not knowing much about their plight, or having much in the way of skills, I could support the marginalized and oppressed. To try to find inspiration on how to help I went to Facebook and found a group that organized things for refugees in Phoenix. A thread came up one day that said, “I’m having a baby shower for refugee moms and if you have anything that you could donate, then show up.” I’d become good friends with a bunch of younger moms in the city - I could get all the baby crap in the world! So people started bringing it in droves to my house.

Baby things are precious. They hold memories, and sometimes you don’t want to throw them away or sell them to a consignment store. So, so many people came out and said, “I would love nothing more than to give these things to a mom and a baby who really need them and who I know will cherish them and who I know this will help.”

We had to move everything out of my garage to make space for baby stuff. I had to go rent a U-haul to get it to the baby shower. I’ve never driven a U-haul and I obviously drive on the other side of the road where I’m from so I’m always nervous driving here. I pulled up and Uzma came out. She’s like, “I’m sorry, who are you?”

I said “I’m Carla.”

“And who were you with?”

“I’m not with anyone. I’ve just got a bunch of stuff that a bunch of moms wanted to give.”

And she said, “Thank you. You’re my right hand man from now on.”

I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know who I was going to see there. I didn’t know who I was allowed to interact with. I didn’t know how the moms were going to feel. I didn’t know how the organizers were going to feel. And honestly the whole event was complete and utter chaos and I loved every minute of it because it restored my faith in humanity, all in one shot. After that, we started collaborating. Uzma is the brains (and a doctor so she can explain everything) and I know how to get stuff. So I get the stuff and she gets the people, and we’re fortunate enough now to have a crew of about eight of us that are on the committee, which makes things a whole lot more organized.


Center pieces for the refugee baby shower lunch Center pieces for the refugee baby shower lunch


Motherhood is such a lonely journey sometimes. It can be a frightening experience even for those of us who grew up in the developed world, where we can hop over to Walmart when something runs out. These women who have gone through war, watching loved ones get murdered in front of them. Some of them have suffered untold sexual abuse, trafficking, and have lived in harsh conditions in refugee camps. I had met one woman who was afraid to go to the bathroom because she was afraid of being sexually assaulted.

For one year, she took sponge baths in her tent because she was too afraid to go to the bathroom. She had to stop making her ritual ablutions to pray. And that, to me, was so harsh, she had even lost prayer.

I thought the baby shower was such an easy way to give back to moms so that they can focus on things like prayer, taking a bath, brushing your teeth, simple things. That is the least we can do. It’s supporting that fourth trimester for these moms that have lost everything. The village that they were raised with, that they probably wanted to raise this baby with, is gone. Maybe we can make a little of that village for her here. I think that’s the intent. It’s not just about providing material goods and maintaining the support of donors.


There are some people who ask, “Why do we have to give nursing pads? You can have a baby without these things?”

“Well, I want them to have everything that I have.” That’s the golden rule of every religion.

We have so many makers and creators and talented women who are stepping up and making things for these women with their hands. Turns out there is a whole tribe of women in the Phoenix area who are invested in seeing our newest, tiny Americans thrive. You can see how touched the women are by the kindness of so many other moms that they’ll never meet.



Refugee moms do not register themselves, they are connected through their mentors. We have matched community members to refugees. The mentors visit them and are aware of what is going on socially and financially in those households. Everybody has a need and we don’t have the resources personally to go and verify information because we’re also busy moms. So if mentors can do that for us, go meet them, talk to them, prepare them for the shower, how it works, it takes a lot of the burden off of us and it prevents any bias on our part.

We want these mentors to fall in love with their moms before the baby comes so that mom has somebody to check on her. That’s the ideal situation. Some are afraid to do that. It’s like they want to save the cat from drowning but are afraid to feed it because what if it has rabies?

Mentors have had some unpleasant experiences and maybe there's something going on in the rumor mill that makes people not want to get in too deep, but love, it can be messy.

It’s all the external noise that gets us afraid of getting too involved. I try to explain that as fearful as you are, the refugee is more fearful, in a new land with a new language, with no friends, no family.


There’s so, so many people needed to play so many parts for this to work. And as amazing as Uzma is there is zero chance she could do this on her own. Each shower (for 12-16 women) costs about $19000 - and our budget is zero. This is just us saying, “Hey, can the community get together and help these women?” And every time what we need is there, from the wipes, to the clothes, to the carseats. There are so many things a new mom needs to learn - all without knowing English and all without her village. It’s so much.



It’s misleading because we call it a baby shower and it’s nothing like a baby shower. There is no cake. There is no “guess what chocolate bar we melted in the diaper”. There is no measuring the baby bump. There’s nothing, nothing at all like a baby shower in this baby shower. This time we will have 25 registered moms. And then we have an open invite to any other pregnant refugees. So if they haven’t been able to sign up in time or we’ve maxed out they can still come. We anticipate having around 50 pregnant women at this event. And they will arrive with their mentor. A mentor is an American or someone who speaks English that will be there to help guide them through the day.

And then every pocket of moms that speak the same language will have a translator. So we usually have five or six translators because we usually have about five or six countries represented. Then we have instructors teach different baby and life skills classes in 2 – 40 minute increments.


volunteer teaching classes
A volunteer teaching classes. A volunteer teaching classes.


Access and education are usually lacking for refugee moms. And so we pile on the education. A lot of these women do not want to be pregnant multiple times, but they’ve never been given options. So, we do a lot of health literacy at the request of these women. I think it was our second shower, that we invited Planned Parenthood and since then they’ve been our keynote speaker every time. They teach them how to control the size of their family and how that can lead to financial and physical independence.

I think it was our sixth shower, where a mom of six was pregnant for the seventh time. We had La Leche League there and she busted the myth that breastfeeding is birth control. This mom of almost 7 was shocked and I was like, “Sister, you should have been asking this question four pregnancies ago”.

We have IRC (International Rescue Committee) they have the financial department, and they come and teach women how to open their own bank accounts because we’ve seen over and over again what happens when a woman doesn’t have her name on a bank account. Her husband absconds, disappears, or he dies and now she has no access to those funds. Or the men get all the funds and they’re spending them in irresponsible ways. We require that the women have their own bank accounts if we’re going to give them funding or micro loans outside of the baby shower.

We never want to give anything they don’t know how to use, because then who’s going to teach them? Nine times out of 10 that instruction manual is not going to be in their language. While the education is being given we have translators live translating. So we have certified car seat technicians teach them how to use and install their carseats. We have a baby wearing expert teach them how to use the baby carrier so that we don’t end up with any kind of hip dysplasia. Of course a lot of our moms come from communities where babywearing with a sling is very normal and they know how to do it better than us, but because we’re giving a specific kind of carrier we have to make sure to train them on that specific one.


I was very vocal about the fact that my boobs hurt when I breastfeed and that that is normal for many women. That’s the attitude that we have with our moms at the shower; It’s “let's lay it all out here. No holds barred. Nothing off limits. This is what to expect and it's okay. You're okay. Everything is okay.” Because there's not enough of that.


Carla Miller organizing baby kits
Carla Miller organizing baby kits. Carla Miller organizing baby kits


After the education is over, we provide a light lunch, and in the background our volunteers have been setting up a free store. That’s where we upcycle baby gear. We have them all separated by gender, age, type of donation, and then the moms can go in there with their giant IKEA bags and they can fill them up to their heart’s content.


We get some local restaurants and local people to make food and bring it to the shower. We make sure that it is dietarily appropriate for any of the cultures that we might have, recognizing that some are vegetarian or vegan and halal.

The store is a big part of why our non registered moms show up and show up again because it’s nice to be able to pick out some new toys and things for the little ones.


Our registered moms, those that have been registered by their mentors, get an entire kit and that kit includes their pack and play, crib sheets, the nursing pads, bras, maxi pads for postpartum, baby carrier, stroller, hygiene items for the baby, baby bathtub, diaper bag, carseat, everything that a mom can imagine needing for one year, we’re going to give her. This year, we had 25, which is the biggest that we’ve ever had.


I get my own special little room - they know to keep me away from regular society! In my little room I have my bundles for each of the registered moms. Our goal is to have them be self-sufficient. And that’s so tough with a baby. So, a baby carrier frees up their hands to do other things. The stroller makes it easier to get on the bus. The reusable diapers take the financial burden away so they have more money that can be used towards their goal of becoming self-sufficient. We don’t want to put any barriers in their way.

Some people say, "Well, isn't that a little bit excessive? I didn't have one of those when my baby was born", and we get that. We also recognize that their lot is harder as a refugee. And so we consider these necessities.

We really want to give them the tools to succeed. We really want these babies to get the best start in life. So we believe that these things are essential as a new mom and a refugee.


If you don’t have enough for everybody, there’s going to be fighting and there’s going to be a lot of bad feelings. There’s going to be mistrust. And so we’ve created a backstage area at every venue we’ve ever had where the kits go. And the mentors are assigned time slots to go back over there and pick them up, and get them into their car or into the dad’s car because we’ve instructed the dad to come pick it up at this time. The baby showers have always been man free, male free camera free so that these moms feel very safe.



If people want to help we have a subheading for the baby shower on the Gathering Humanity website, and you can sign up to be a mentor or volunteer. We also have an Amazon list that’s been curated. We try to do our due diligence, updating it every six months to make sure we’re getting the best bargains for our donors. The easiest thing to do is to go to the Amazon wishlist and order whatever is on there and share that list with like 10 Friends.

And wouldn’t it be wonderful? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to connect these women to other resources so they know where to go to get help? We’re just one day. We’re just one team. I’d love to see this village expand so that we can support them all through the entire process. They need it. Every mom needs it.



I’m a crazy woman all day at that event.

I leave in the morning so stressed and hyped up on caffeine that I don't think I’ll make it through the day and I come home so dusty. So sweaty. So tired. Chapped lips. My feet hurt. I need some body glide. And it is just the best feeling in the world.

I love coming home and feeling like I made a difference. A tangible difference. There is a child that is going to start their life off more successful because of all the people that came together to do that. Hundreds of people that will never know each other, from all over the world, from all over the political spectrum, from all over the educational spectrum came together to support this one kid. This one child that now gets this amazing start and this one mom, who now gets to know that she’s truly loved in a place that sometimes doesn’t make that obvious to her. No matter who we are, where we’re from, we all are good. Humans are good and that day proves that.

To read more about someone whose life was impacted by the bi-annual baby shower read our other story.

A Child's Life is Saved
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