On November 2, 2023, an amazing team of volunteers and staff organized a spectacular event called ‘Empower Her’ at the Lynn Museum. This event was dedicated to celebrating the diverse talents of female clients from various cultural backgrounds, including Afghanistan, Cameroon, Haiti, and Ukraine and was attended by over 100 people! 

Evgeniia, from Ukraine, crafted beautiful flower crowns to adorn guests while Tetiana proudly showcased her unique fashion line. Iryna shared her beautiful crafts, including stuffed animals and knitted ornaments. Liudmila contributed to the aesthetic by assembling an exquisite pink balloon wall, creating a perfect backdrop for capturing these memorable moments.  

Cameroonian women then took the spotlight in sharing their incredible dance skills, and soon after invited everyone to join in a lively circle to dance the night away. Calista, Sophina, Susan, Nicole, Isabella, Nicholine, and Ritah introduced us to Makossa and Bensekin music and dance.

Meanwhile, Dejuna from Haiti showed off her intricate hair braiding skills. Hair braiding is a part of Haitian culture, and during the time of slavery, it was not only used to ornate the head, but also served as silent maps for escape routes and meeting routes for the enslaved peoples. 

Many of the Afghan women from Afghan Women’s Workshop (AWW) gathered around their display table demonstrating unique embroidery techniques. Janat, Juma, Marhama and Rahima had their embroidery hoops and thread in hand and reveled in the joy of teaching the guests how to tackle ancient Afghan designs. Hajera, Taiba, and her mother Nadera, offered traditional Henna art. AWW had a table packed with items representing the work of the 26 members; it was a very proud evening for the women. Follow AWW on Instagram @afghanwomensworkshop or contact Lesley Hansard at lhansard@naamass.org.

We were fortunate to have an amazing array of foods, featuring delicious traditional dishes from our clients’ home countries. Aliaqa Firoozi, NAAM Youth Program Coordinator and owner of Herat-Kabul Restaurant, catered the Afghan food: Chicken Shish Kabob, Dugh (yogurt drink), Bulani bread, and Sambosas. We also enjoyed typical Haitian appetizers including Banana Peze (pressed deep fried plantains) and Acra (mashed manioc, a type of yucca root, seasoned and deep fried as well) and Cameroonian Fried Rice. 

The event included inspiring speeches from NAAM staff and clients, including Executive Director Natasha Soolkin, Employment Specialists Lynne Havusha and Sabine Metellus, Cameroonian client Clalista, and daughter of a recently arrived Ukrainian family, Katya. These speeches added a layer of depth to the event, emphasizing the importance of empowerment, solidarity, and the celebration of each woman’s unique talents and contributions to our NAAM community. 

The planning process was a team effort, and we extend our deepest gratitude to Judi and Jeff Goldman, Lesley Hansard, and Jud-Ann Geneus. Moreover, Executive Director Natasha Soolkin’s ongoing faith in this vision was so greatly appreciated. This event could not have happened without the support of NAAM’s exceptional case workers and interpreters, Julie Nkangwa, Paola Colunga, Gaiane Koren, and Diana Staco-Millery. They ensured that the clients understood how important they were to this experiential event and that we wanted to hear their voices.  

‘Empower Her’ stood as a testament to the strength, creativity, and passion of our female clients and we feel so grateful to all who were able to join us in this evening of celebration, community, and empowerment. We are hoping to host a fundraiser in October 2024… anyone who is interested in helping, please contact Natasha Soolkin at nsoolkin@naamass.org

Support the local businesses that made this event so special! 

Liudmila’s Party Planning Business  
Tetiana’s Fashion Line 
Afghan Women’s Workshop 
Call Aliaqa Firoozi for Afghan catering from Herat-Kabul Restaurant (202) 300-3165 
Call Evgeniia for flower crowns, 603-202-8690 
Call Iryna for crafts, 781-268-1100 

We also want to thank Daniella’s in Danvers for generously donating several dishes. 

Finally, thank you to the Lynn Museum for being so accommodating, it was such a perfect venue for the event!