The structure of intergenerational programming provided by Mothers for Justice and Equality (MJE) typically followed the rhythms of normal life.

Parents attended MJE’s job readiness and wellness workshops while their children were in school. Many of these adults, survivors of trauma, met in groups to work on overcoming fears that kept them isolated and indoors. After school, their children came in for STEM and service learning projects, academic tutoring, or peer-to-peer support.

When the world changed in March, MJE’s mission didn’t waver; it just became that much harder.

“Not only are the mothers home managing their anxiety and stresses, but now they also have the children at home, which is adding more anxiety and stress,” said Monalisa Smith, MJE president and CEO. “Add the extra burden of the loss of what little job they had and the extra food they need, and it’s starting to multiply.”

Fortunately, MJE had recently partnered with Tech Goes Home to ensure many of their mothers received Chromebooks. Between these devices and their smartphones, all of MJE’s clients have remote meeting capabilities for one or more family members.

MJE is relying on these lifelines to continue to care for their clients – in new ways. Now, if a parent is in a virtual workshop, their child can simultaneously participate in a virtual workshop provided by another MJE staff member or partner organization. These youth workshops tend to attract the curiosity of other siblings in the house, allowing MJE to reach the whole family in a way that was impossible before. MJE also offers gift cards as incentives for families to work together on do-it-yourself learning projects.

“We’re trying to help them develop healthy relationships in their household, and get them to connect them with one another,” said Dominique Smith, MJE director of programs.

The close quarters that bind them only underscore MJE’s core philosophy: The fates of a mother and her child are inextricably linked. To help one, you must help both.

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