Friday, September 30, 2022

The DDS conference - let the learning of culture begin

 Welcome Remark - DDS Family Support Conference Sept 29th, 2022 Boston

Early on last month I got an email for an “ask”, from the director of family support in DDS. DDS- Department of Developmental Services is the biggest agency supporting families. When she took over the position we had a conversation regarding Desi Moms network as her predecessor was supporting our group. It was the beginning of Covid time and Zoom calls were just becoming the new norm.

As I don’t work for or understand much about these agencies and the non profit world I had no idea of the scope of her job or the hierarchy. Her calm and willingness to help and support was more empowering than her post.

So when she asked me to be part of a panel discussion for the upcoming in person Family Support Conference -“Making a Cultural Commitment : Bridging the Cultural and Linguistic Gaps”, I wholeheartedly agreed. And then in the next call she asked if I could do the Welcome remark, on top of that in Hindi, I loved the idea. Such out of the box thinking.

Last Sunday I finally decided what I wanted to say in my welcome remark. My motherhood journey is all about gratitude, the speech had to be about the same but had to include some learning opportunities for the audience too. 

The Conference was a big success and I will come back to what I learned in another post. I was honored be on the stage to welcome everyone in Hindi. People paid attention to what I was saying, I am sure not a single person understood my words but they could read the English translation on screen. My first born was in audience, that was enough for me.

I was part of a panel discussion too and will write about that in another post.

Below is the transcript in Hindi and English.

Please be kind and show empathy. That’s all we need to change the world!

The woman - the ask - She changed so many things yesterday. Asking for something unusual but showing that she really means what she says - Listening to family, meeting them where they are .. So Hindi came on podium as a welcoming language. 

The Speech - Below is your tube link. Its been ages since I spoke in Hindi other than my usual poetry recital.

A beautiful Srilankan silk saree - a gift from an old friends wife. I have never met her yet but when my friend visited Boston, she remembered to send a pretty one. Later she opened her home and heart to my son and hosted him for over 10 days.

Hello  and Namste, 

My name is Jaya Pandey and I am a mom and a community builder. I grew up in India and Hindi is my mother tongue.I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world but to stand here in front of you and truly appreciate everything you do.


Thank you all for being here and I am grateful for this opportunity to tell you in person how important you are for many families like mine. 

I live in Franklin with my husband Ashish and two wonderful sons, Ajey and Anand , who are 25 and 22. I got married young and moved out of India for my husband’s career.  Left everything known, home, family, friends, job for a better future and American dream. A doting husband and two adorable children, a new home I had everything one could dream of. 

Our journey in this world of disabilities started around 18 years ago when Anand’s Preschool teacher noticed difficulty in interacting with peers and comprehension in general. The search for the right resources, support, providers, services began since then and continues till today.

I remember frustration, anger, denial and helplessness. I remember sleepless nights. I remember worries but at the same time I am grateful for support, care and help. Many people who held my hand when I needed and were there to wipe my tears. People whom I never knew before, but they were walking the same path with their child. They didn’t speak my language, didn’t look like me but my struggles were exactly the same as theirs. And I realized the families with special need child has only one culture or religion - the well being of their Child.

Over the years I witnessed the goodness in the world around me. They came in the form of teachers, friends, neighbors and then service providers. From OT person to nurse to school psychologist to speech pathologist to area coordinator to the case workers, the therapist or the doctors and their office staff. Everyone supported our family in this journey and I couldn’t be more grateful to many of them.

We appreciate all the support. But especially those amongst us who walk into our doors with openness and cultural curiosity.  The cultural background of South Asians ARE different. We don’t need our support to be culturally competent. Just culturally curious and open. When asked with the curiosity of how you can help, you might be surprised with the response you hear. Our aspirations and goals are exactly the same. Ingredients are the same for life outcomes, but the recipe is unique. Ask us for the recipe. It might be a good surprise!

Culture defines people in so many ways. Please remember that if they cover their head, doesn’t mean they are orthodox. Don’t wear designer clothes doesn’t mean they are not stylish. Eat with fingers- doesn’t mean they are unsophisticated. Talk in broken English or with accent doesn’t mean they are uneducated. Don’t wear shoes at home doesn’t mean they are backward. Don’t eat meat doesn’t mean they are poor. Ask you many personal questions doesn’t mean they are nosy, they are trying to find connection. They offer you food, tea or coffee because that is important for them, have seen their parents do the same 


These families may have different lifestyle, food, behavior, language, clothes or customs and ritual but in the end all they want is a better life for their children. In a way every parent in this world is the same - their children are everything for them.

I totally understand how difficult your work is, believe me we all do. You are too many things for families, you are the vision, you are the hope and you are the guiding star in dark phases of life. I am sure we all will learn much from each other and inspire one another too.

Today I stand here to pay my sincere gratitude. You all are continuing to make a difference  for our families and children and as a mother I am in debt.

कृतज्ञ हूँ मैं
जैसे आसमान की कृतज्ञ है पृथ्वी
जैसे पृथ्वी का कृतज्ञ है किसान
जैसे सागर का कृतज्ञ है बादल
जैसे नए जीवन के लिए
बादल का आभारी है नन्हा बिरवा
कृतज्ञ हूँ मैं

मैं जया पांडे आपका आज की conference में स्वागत करती हूँ,

मेरा सौभाग्य है कि आज मुझे आपका अभिनंदन करने का मौक़ा मिला है 

मैं  अपने पति ( आशीष) और २२ और २५ साल के दो बेटों (Ajey और आनंद) के साथ Franklin  में रहती हूँ , India  में पली बढ़ी हूँ और हिंदी बोलती हूँ 

शादी के बाद पति के career  के लिए घर परिवार मित्र और  नौकरी छोड़ी, एक अच्छे भविष्य के लिए, Amrican dreams के लिए सात समुंदर पार गए,

वो मेरे जीवन के बहुत ही स्मरणीय दिन थे, फिर जैसे एक नया सफ़र शुरू हुआ 

१८-१९ साल पहले पहली बार  आनंद की preschool  टीचर ने कहा की हमको कहीं उसका evaluation  करना चाहिए 

ये मेरी ज़िंदगी की एक महत्वपूर्ण घटना है क्योंकि किसी और ने मेरा हाथ पकड़ा और दिशा दीखाई  वहाँ से कई रास्ते खुलते गए 

Teachers, support staff, Nurses, मित्र, पड़ोसी, doctors, office staff, OT, PT और Speech professionals, area coordinators, case workers 

सभी ने मदद की, लेकिन कहीं तो कुछ कमी थी, वो हमें और हमारे रहन सहन को और हम उनके काम करने के तरीक़ों को, system को नहीं समझ पाते थे 

कई सालों तक और आज तक बहुत बार, क्यों, कैसे ऐसे सवाल ज़रूर आते है मन में, अकेलापन, निराशा, ग़ुस्सा, और कई बार उम्मीद, सब कुछ जीने के बाद मैंने सोचा कि मेरे जैसे किसी और को ये मुश्किल ना हो और उसी Cultural  gap  की कमी को पूरा करने २०१७ में “Desi  Moms Network“ बना, २५५  Indian  Moms  आज एक साथ है, एक दूसरे का Support  system  हैं

Special needs immigrant / minorities Families अकेली हैं, घर वालों से बहुत दूर है, आप जब उन्हें support  करने जाते है तो please cultural curiosity के साथ जाइए, openness के साथ उनकी मदद करिए क्योंकि उन Families  का आपके अलावा कोई नहीं है,

अगर वो सर ढाँकते हैं तो orthodox  नहीं हैं, डिज़ाइनर कपड़े नहीं पहनते है तो अनपढ़ नहीं है, हाथ से खाना खाते हैं तो पुरातनपंथी नहीं हैं Broken  या accent  वाली English बोलते हैं तो गवाँर नहीं हैं, घर में जूते नहीं पहनते तो Backward  नहीं हैं, मीट नहीं खाते हैं तो गरीब नहीं हैं 

आपसे personal  सवाल पूछते हैं तो nosy नहीं हैं बस connection बनाना चाहते हैं, खाना या Tea  कॉफ़ी offer करते हैं क्योंकि guest बहुत important है और parents  से यही सीखा है 

मैं समझती हूँ की आपका काम मुश्किल है, बहुत मुश्किल है  लेकिन आप उनकी उम्मीद हैं, आशा है, उनकी दुआएँ है, सहारा है 

इन familes की lifestyle, रहन सहन, बर्ताव,खाना और भाषा आपसे अलग हो  सकता है पर इनकी ज़िंदगी का मकसद एक ही है - इनके बच्चे की खुशहाल ज़िंदगी 

इस तरह से सारी दुनिया के माँ बाप बिलकुल एक से ही होते है - उनके बच्चे ही उनका धरम और सब कुछ है 

आज मैं आपसे निवेदन करती हूँ की बस एक बात याद रखिए की ये बच्चे आपके लिए एक “Client” हैं लेकिन उन parents के लिए ये ही सब कुछ हैं 

अगर आप ऐसी families से मिलते है जो एक सी भाषा बोलते हैं, एक ही जगह से हैं - प्लीज़ उन्हें एक दूसरे से जोड़िए, उनके village को बनाने में उनकी मदद करिए।

मैं DDS की शुक्रगुज़ार हूँ इस महत्वपूर्ण थीम के लिए, आप सबकी - यहाँ होने के लिए और उम्मीद करती हूँ कि हम सब आज एक दूसरे से कुछ नया सीखेंगे और इस दुनिया को बेहतर बनायेंगे 

शुभम करोती कल्याणम 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

A step forward - Someone is ready to listen - Lets speak now

Over and over again Indian are called model minority and always associated with IT and academics. Usually we don’t talk about our personal issues and always hush if things are not going right, What will everyone say is the first thing comes to our mind.

We all have lived through that in our life. 

Learning disability or mental health or any kind of disability is absolutely a taboo.

I have come across so many moms who haven’t told their immediate family in India about their child. 

Its been almost 6 years I have been working with indian moms to build a community and finally I see them coming out of their shell and thinking about their child not the society. We are still not there but moving forward with small steps which is big enough for now.

MA is one of the most prominent state in USA when it comes to Special Education. But a good system is not enough unless we participate in it, make use of it for our children.

 I am asked to participate at the a Family Support Conference  - as a panelist to talk about “Fostering Cross-Cultural Understanding”.

5 of us from different culture are going to speak about our cultural and disability awareness. How religion and culture shape our views, willingness to find resources and how can we get help from family support professionals and how to build the bridge between families, culture and rest of the world. I want to touch upon all these when sharing my and your story.

My journey as mom is mine, but that is not enough, I don’t represent the community. There are so many stories to be heard, please help me make it all about you, give me words and I can be your voice. 

A saree for a celebration dinner with some of the amazing moms I met in my journey.

Anand on his morning walk. 

This is one of my fav pic from a family picnic

These two girls never would have met if not for their brothers. The moms are part of "Desi Moms Network" and we are building the sibling network too . I am sure these girls will grow into wonderful and compassionate women

Friday, September 16, 2022

What it is to be a part of the caregiver world

The federation for children with Special Needs had in person gala last Saturday. First in person post pandemic. It was exciting for many reasons to begin with. I joined the board during pandemic so it was my first time meeting other members in real world. Some of them I have known for some time and have met them in person. I have been to Gala before but this year it was extra special. As a board member I have seen how incredible this organization is. But that is not it, I got to know people who work tirelessly to make things better for this community. One thing struck big time even though it is very obvious. How loved ones create the fierce leaders, game changers and pioneers in life. Each one of them went above and beyond because their loved one inspired them. I admit if not for Anand I wouldn’t be this woman I am today. Everyone of them who came on stage was there because someone they love deserved better.

Two incredible people - Michael Weiner, professional financial advisor  and Roxanne Hoke Chandler, a public health professional, got the awards. Their children changed how they lived their life and inspired them to make it better for others too. The Gala celebrated the life of Larry Kotin, a pioneer in the field of special education law in Massachusetts. 

Everything was amazing that evening, the Venue, the season, the weather, the food and drinks and the people and the disco theme . I couldn’t have been in any other place. So much fun, happiness, pride and more than anything the feeling of willingness to go beyond, push our limits so the next generation lives a better life. Most of them in the room had someone who inspires them to be their best version.

Please read more about the Gala and support Federation in any ways you can. 

A beautiful lehriya Banarasi, a gift from a dear friend. 

Two of my Fav ladies - Roxanne (in the middle, The pride of the evening) and Elizabeth Bostic 
With Michael Weiner 
View from the Venue - Row Hotel Assembly Square Somerville 
The Raffle wall - A cooking lesson by Jaya Pandey is somewhere there too :) 
 Some of the Board Members - Theme was "Disco Night"