Mum of the Year

Mum of the Year nominee Siphatisiwe Moyo pictured at the Garden of Remembrance in Salthill.

Mum of the Year nominee lives in an asylum seekers’ hostel in Salthill

Being a mother is tough; you have to be strict, but you also have to make sure your kids know you love them, according to Mum of the Year Awards nominee Siphathisiwe Moyo.

A native of Zimbabwe, and now living in a hostel in Salthill, Siphathisiwe has been through a lot since she moved to Ireland in 2008.

Separated from her kids for three years while she waited for them to join her, Siphathisiwe spiralled into depression, unable to get up in the mornings to shower and spending her days crying, missing her three children.

But she found her strength and fought to get her children by her side: “It was tough. The fight I had was not a physical fight. I had no opponent. My fight was more like fighting a shadow because I was fighting to stay strong,” she says.

“I knew that they would follow me to Ireland, but I felt hopeless. I was depressed. I was crying all the time. But I had to fight that fight.”

Siphathisiwe’s life in Ireland has been a constant struggle but she has never given up hope for her or her three children, 17-year-old Victoria, 14-year-old Emmanuel and four-year-old Alexander.

And her efforts have certainly not gone unappreciated: months ago, Victoria nominated her loving mother for the Woman’s Way and Lidl Mum of the Year Award and was thrilled when she got the call saying her nomination was successful.

“I couldn’t believe it. She is such a fun girl to have. She came home and told me that months ago she had entered a competition online and forgotten about it,” Siphathisiwe explains.

“I just couldn’t believe it – especially coming from her. As a mother I can be tough, but it was nice to know she appreciates me.”

If Siphathisiwe wins the Mum of the Year Award, she will receive a €5,000 voucher courtesy of Lidl, among other luxury goodies and discounts.

“We joked about it but I told Victoria that even if we did win that, we don’t have a home to put all of those groceries,” she says, referring to the hostel in which she and her children are living.

“And she said maybe our papers will come through and we will have a house by then.”

Siphathisiwe is currently living on €19 a week and €9 for each child. Meals are provided in the hostel and residents are not allowed to cook their own food. Siphathisiwe, unfortunately, is allergic to some foods, such as red meat, which brings her out in a rash.

“So I decided, how am I supposed to survive here? But you can’t expect them to do everything right. So I bought a rice cooker and I cook meals in my room. I can’t keep fighting with them. And I don’t want to have to fight for food. I don’t want that.”

Living is difficult. The family is cramped and there is nothing for teenagers to do – they can’t afford to join a club and play soccer regularly, and they can’t get summer jobs to keep them busy for the three months of holidays, because they are asylum seekers.

But the title of Mum of the Year is certainly one that would be well-deserved by Siphathisiwe who, despite the difficulties, has found a way to ensure that their lives in Galway are as good as possible.

Over the years, she has become a strong, passionate mother who will do anything for her children; “You have to fight like a lion to protect your children. I let them know all the time that I love them,” she says.

“Teenagers can be tough. They’re finding themselves and they’re out doing all kinds of naughty things. And I can be tough on them – I’m not their friend. I’m their mother. We can joke and be friends, but I am trying to teach them to be good people in life so I have to put the foot down sometimes.

“But I try my best to make sure that no matter how tough I am, I love them. Life is very precious and we don’t know when it will end. So tomorrow if I was to wake up dead, at least my children will know that their mother loved them.”

Siphathesiwe’s determination and positivity has paid off over and over again. Last year, she was named African Woman of the Year. She was sitting the Leaving Certificate at the time and was “over the moon” when she found out she had been nominated – even more so when she won the title because of all the volunteering and community work she does.

“But all the work I do, I don’t do for credit. I do it because I love to help people. Even if I make one person happy, I’m happy. I do it because it makes me feel good.”

Siphathesiwe has big plans for the future. Having just finished a community development course in NUI Galway, her plan is to go on and get a degree. Her main interests are the study of human rights, and she is determined to get a qualification that she feels will give her something to stand on so that her voice can be heard.

Even though life has been incredibly tough, Siphathesiwe refuses to give up on her goals and dreams, inspiring her daughter Victoria to put her forward for this special recognition.

Siphathesiwe and fourteen other finalists will attend a gala luncheon in The Intercontinental, Dublin on July 6th, where five regional winners will be chosen and one mother will be crowned Woman’s Way & Lidl Mum of the Year.

Siphathesiwe Moyo will never stop fighting for her children, and whether she wins the official title or not, she will always be Mum of the Year to her own children.

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*Originally published in the Connacht Tribune

Written by Jessica Thompson