First Place Options Fundraiser with Solange Tuyishime and Kim Sabourin
Photos by Emily Jefferies and NAYLAH’s Legacy
Last night, First Place Options held a spring fundraiser for their Ottawa agency at the Centurion Conference Centre. It was hosted by Executive Director Kimberly Sabourin, along with special guest Solange Tuyishime.
Both women, who’s relationship has grown stronger over the last few years, run their own charitable organizations for maternal health. Kim helps run First Place Options along with Destiny Adoption Services, and Solange is the CEO of NAYLAH’s Legacy.
I entered a room full of passionate women and men, and three endless tables of sweet chocolate (which was the other theme of the night).
First Place offers support and decision aid coaching for unplanned pregnancies, through free pregnancy tests, post-abortion grief, doula support, options counseling and so much more. NAYLAH’s Legacy is committed to empowering young women, while supporting mothers and vulnerable babies locally and globally. Her legacy helps to raise funds for Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) for various Children's Hospitals in North America, and supports UNICEF's programs dedicated to reduce inequities of care, strengthen health systems, incorporate resilience and risk-informed planning, and focus attention on reduction of adolescent pregnancies.
I sat down with Solange at a café two days before to get a better sense of their unique relationship and her own story.
Ottawa Life: What’s the story behind meeting Kim, and Naylah’s legacy?
Solange Tuyishime: We met at the gym. She’s actually a weightlift trainer, and I had taken a few of her classes. A mutual friend connected us, and we started chatting, and attending trainer’s BBQ’s together. Kim invited me to one of her Sunday masses, which I took a pass on due to my own practices and beliefs, but was amazed that on top of being a trainer and running an adoption organization, she was a children’s pastor. And over time our friendship just organically grew.
So, I soon became pregnant after my marriage, and three months later I miscarried, and I couldn’t understand why. I ate healthy, I exercised…what was I missing? And I remember Kim saying, “this is a grieving process like any other”, which made the situation feel so much better, because someone was able to articulate that perfectly. Some people don’t understand miscarriages. I mean, we are slowly starting to understand that it happens to way more women, naturally. And more importantly, it’s nothing that I have done wrong. I remember someone telling me “Solange, you were just so busy and maybe your body couldn’t handle it”, which makes you then question yourself. Was I working out too much? Was I too busy? What was I doing? And again Kim reminded me to take my time, and to heal my wounds.
Then the next opportunity for us to have kids came, and we ended up discovering triplets. So this new journey of having three babies was a challenge in itself. But Kim was there through the anxieties and complications. I remember getting physically stuck in a parking lot because my belly had grown so big, and began overwhelmingly crying on the phone to her. “I know you are superwoman, but this is a time where you need to accept help”, she said. And that’s honestly where I learned that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
Different people will come for different reasons. Kim literally got a group together to pray for my healthy delivery, of people I’d never met. These people didn’t even know me and yet they dedicated time to wish someone well. And I thought: maybe there is a different side to this religious world that we don’t see, because we see so much negativity. But here is a group of strangers dedicated to me for seven months.
Kim came on the Sunday afternoon to comfort me through a therapeutic session, and then the babies were delivered on the Tuesday. All three came out screaming and perfect…and then Naylah began to have her complications. She was very strong, and endured ten hours of operations. Over a dozen surgeons did all they could, but then the time came to make a decision.
When you’ve reached that stage, it could go either way. And this is an important part of our organization. It’s important that parents have done everything they could, so that they don’t look back wishing they had done more.
The nurse asked us if there was someone we could call for Naylah’s final hours, and it turned out my husband had already called Kim. He didn’t put his Muslim faith first, he just called someone we trusted. So as soon as she showed up, Naylah was taken into a final major surgery. She was hooked up to all these machines, surrounded by people, and then Kim waited until the appropriate time to enter with her blessing kit. It was magical. That was a moment I wish we had documented, to show people that amidst the chaos there was goodness. And that moment set the tone for the rest of my life. I saw a different side of faith. There are so many challenges that will come ahead, so many racists, sexists, warlords…but within the threatening chaos there is good. Now, I don’t think I could devote myself to every grieving mother like Kim. They are very heavy situations to take on. But here I am saying I couldn’t devote myself, yet it’s something that I needed.
She then went on to plan the entire funeral, and prepare my husband and I for certain upcoming social interactions. There truly is no word for when a parent loses a child, so most people don’t know how to approach the topic in person. People can sometimes say the wrong things, so Kim prepared us for the good, the bad, and the very ugly, which we were so grateful for. And basically in the end, overall, that is how our bond came to be.
Since then, Solange and Kim have been inseparable during interviews and public events, and last night their sisterly bond and coinciding passions inspired yet another room.
First Place Options have two events coming up. Operation Baby Bottle will be fundraising from May 14th – June 18th, and the Annual Dinner & Auction will be on November 24th 2017. Further information can be found at: http://www.firstplaceoptions.ca. More information on Solange’s organization can be found at: http://www.naylah.org/, as well as Kim’s adoption agency at: http://www.destinyadoptionservices.com.