Miriam, stunningly beautiful with her dark flashing eyes, gleaming white teeth and chocolate coloured skin, walked into Toronto’s Aid to Women looking lost. Told by the abortuary staff downstairs “not to talk to a man standing outside on the street because he might change your mind about abortion,” she came looking for him.

He wasn’t standing outside on the sidewalk that afternoon, so she came inside to find him. Joanne greeted her and when Miriam announced why she came, intuitively, Joanne said, “You don’t really want an abortion, do you?” Miriam shook her head and said, “No I don’t.” She got pregnant so that her Somali boyfriend would marry her, but when she told him about the baby, he told her not to have an abortion and then promptly disappeared. Outraged, she decided to defy him and made an appointment at the abortuary.

Joanne recalls, “She had a beautiful face and her hair was in dredlocks with the traditional “hijab” Somali shawl covering her head. She was hurt, confused, and scared – all she needed was emotional and practical help.”

And that’s what she got over the next few months until her baby son, Raphael, arrived. After his birth, Joanne went to her nearby apartment and showed her how to give the baby a bath, and Robert assembled boxed furniture from Social Services to provide a sitting area until later on when he could move her to a larger apartment.

Mother and son often drop in to visit Joanne and Robert and are part of the agency’s extended family. Before her pregnancy, Miriam had some trouble with the law and was given a sentence of community service. Authorities allowed her to serve these hours at Aid to Women under Joanne’s supervision, enabling Miriam to hone her mothering skills and to help with small tasks.

Just the other day Miriam pointed out Joanne to Raphael, saying, “That lady has helped us a lot.” At that, sixteen-month-old Raphael ran into Joanne’s arms, hugged her and with his tiny hand gently patted her on the neck – a gesture of appreciation from a saved child.