In Village Voices, we sit down and interview network partners about how they got to where they are. This week, we are so excited to kick off our this publication with an interview with the wonderful Tiara Murphy. Tiara has stuck with us as we tried to make this new feature work for the past two months. We are so grateful to her for sharing her story with us, and with all of you.
Name: Tiara Murphy
Title: Mom, Early Education Specialist, Playgroup Coordinator
Organizations: Mattapan Family Engagement Network; JumpStart
Question 1: Where are you from?
I am the oldest of ten children. My youngest sister is actually only nine now, so I always helped to take care of the little ones growing up. From that experience, I knew I wanted to work with families to help kids get a better start in life.
I moved out to this area after a very difficult experience. When I was five months pregnant with my son, I left my abusive partner. At the time, I felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Being pregnant for the first time in my life, alone and without long-term housing was terrifying.
I was lucky to become enrolled in the Boston Public Health Commission’s Healthy Start in Housing program, where I met Lori Caiby. Lori supported me throughout this very challenging period– she helped me enroll my son in a play-group at Smart from the Start and to find housing. As we all know, looking affordable housing in Boston is so difficult and complicated, but thanks to Lori I’ve had a generally positive experience. Around that same time, Ana Barto (Smart from the Start’s playgroup coordinator) brought me on as a parent leader.
Becoming a parent leader really helped me connect with other organizations and build my own resources as an early childhood advocate in Boston.
Question 2: Where are you at?
I’ve recently started to work at a wider range of play-groups. Smart from the Start connected me with Vickey Siggers at the Mattapan Hugs n’ Play Group, where I now work as a coordinator. I’m so grateful to be able to work with Vickey and with such a diverse group of parents. We have Haitian Creole, Spanish, Irish and Chinese families that attend.
Right now, I’m also very focused on my work with JumpStart. When I was a student at Roxbury Community College, I connected with Jumpstart’s preschool at the Kennedy Center. Jumpstart’s programming helps to build social-emotional and literacy skills for toddlers to prepare them for kindergarten. We follow a curriculum, work on phonetic awareness, tell stories, and read poems. Although I currently work for Jumpstart through an Americorp position, I’m eventually hoping to become certified as a teacher’s assistant. I’m grateful to work on such a meaningful program and to do it with wonderful, supportive people like Kim Monaco, my site manager.
In my other roles, I do outreach — hosting cook-outs for the community and completing intake forms for Smart from the Start. I also send out a newsletter with resources for parents, including information on our play-group and other events that are happening around the community.
I like to help people, and I think I am a resourceful advocate. I want to hear people’s needs first. I am also raising my son on my own, and that relationship helps me realize the importance of the work I am doing. I always knew I wanted my son to have a better life than I did. You just have to take the best of what you have and make it what you can make it.
Question 3: Who moves you?
There are so many people who motivate me!
Vickey Siggers at Mattapan Hugs n’ Play has been a wonderful mentor. Last week, we managed to get over 20 children into our play group and so much of the credit for that goes to her.
I mentioned that Lori Caiby has been a huge mentor, but she also stays on top of me like no tomorrow! In all seriousness, she is always pushing me on towards better things.
Mimi Tovar, who facilitates one of the breastfeeding groups at the Boston Children’s Museum, is a real friend. I trust her completely with my son and am so inspired by her community work around Charlestown.
Eric Leslie has been wonderful at connecting me to lifelong resources, through Union Capital Boston. He helped me become involved in a domestic violence workshop that really offered a lot of support. Eric also introduced me to Dinah Shepard of First Teacher — who helped me realize that self-care is an integral part of parenting and working with kids.
Finally, I have to say that my grandmother moves me. She was the biggest influence on my life growing up. I was born prematurely, and my mom herself was very young. I was only 1 pound, 10 oz at birth! But my grandmother was there, and she carried me through the whole way. She has such a big impact in my son’s life as well. At the end of the day, God motivates me, and my grandmother motivates me.
I live through her “trying to do the best you can with what you got.”
Question 4: Where are you going?
I’m going back to school this September. I was at Roxbury Community College, but they shut down their daycare. I am still trying to figure out my exact interests. While I’ve been focusing on early childhood education, I’m also very interested in social work and advocacy. For families and young children to thrive, they need so many things beyond just daycare — reduced price diapers, help with housing, everything.
Moving forward, I want to be an advocate for women who are experiencing domestic abuse and who are raising kids as single moms. I want women to feel like anything is possible. I went and got help through the Passageway program at Brigham and Women’s hospital and I didn’t stop. I want women to know that they are not alone, and that they can contact me if they need help. In every way possible, I will give them the resources they need. There is a light at the end of every dark tunnel.
This interview is by Tiara Murphy, as told to Zoe Miller.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, SafeLink can provide resources and support. Please call 1–877–785–2020.