The Maternal Health Education Program, operated by the United Community Family Services-Chaldean American Ladies of Charity, aids immigrant and refugee mothers new to this country.

The Maternal Health Education Program, operated by the United Community Family Services-Chaldean American Ladies of Charity, aids immigrant and refugee mothers new to this country.

Photo provided by Kristin Olmedo

Nonprofit offers maternal help to immigrant and refugee mothers

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published September 21, 2023


TROY — Having to start a life over in a new country can be hard. Having to do so when raising a child can drastically increase that challenge.

That’s why the Troy-based United Community Family Services-Chaldean American Ladies of Charity is helping moms through this process with its Maternal Health Education Program. This program is specifically tailored to support refugee and immigrant mothers.

“We’ve run it every year for the last six or seven years. It ended last summer,” said Kristin Olmedo, the president and CEO of United Community Family Services. “We have sort of relaunched the program this year. We like to think of ourselves as community and client-led. When we asked about all of our programs, we got a lot of feedback on this program in particular. A lot of moms wanted to add in things like CPR training, postpartum advice, and a Lamaze course. We have started a new program now to cover each of those topics.”

She added that COVID-19 put into perspective how important resources like this class can be.

“We really took time to plan out what it would look like going forward,” Olmedo said. “I’m not a refugee myself, but when I started with the organization during COVID, you couldn’t take people with you. You had a lot of mothers who couldn’t take people in with them who spoke the language when they didn’t. This better educates mothers and new parents on how to navigate that process.”

The programs take place 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at 27301 Dequindre Road in Madison Heights. The classes are monthly, with the next scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 26, and Wednesday, Nov. 29. Future dates are posted on their website,

Arjan Kallou, the program operations director for UCFS, said that they try to provide a wide variety of lessons in the program while giving access to resources that those new to the country or not fluent in English might find useful.

“Each session is a little different,” she said. “It is a two-hour session on a certain topic: breast feeding, lactation, CPR training and so forth. We have more broad topics, like picking out a pediatrician or looking at school districts. … We do have physician support within the Beaumont and Ascension systems.”

Equally important to the educational aspect of the class is that it can help those new to the country find others in the community to help them or simply befriend.

“Our maternal health education program is tailored for refugees and new immigrant mothers who have just arrived in the USA. What is neat is that they have built a sort of community. Mothers who joined in previous years have stayed connected. Mothers in the program get instructions from the instructor, but also from one another, which is important, because they need that sense of community with people in similar situations.”

“It’s actually a program that enriches their lives in motherhood,” Kallou added. “There’s a sisterhood between the women who take part in it. There’s a lot of support and resources that take part as well. … “It’s especially important to those new to this country, because they don’t have the support system they might have had back home. It’s about helping them build a network as much as it is about teaching them things.”

As far as the future, Olmedo said that they are looking at new topics to cover and possibly widening their scope to help with older children.

“We’re looking a lot more at the transition to toddlerhood,” she said. “Milestones, early reading and nutrition are all now things we focus on.”

The organizers hope that new mothers in the immigrant community will reach out and take advantage of what they believe is an amazing opportunity.

“Having a source of educational and emotional resources — especially when they’re in a new country — can mean all the difference in the world to a parent,” remarked Olmedo.