Thousands of women build a sisterhood on Facebook
By Vanessa Denha Garmo
It was a late-night reflection that prompted Lisa Denha to start the Chaldean Moms of Metro Detroit page. “It was an idea I had that I felt like the community needed,” said Denha. “We don’t realize how much we have in common with other women in the Chaldean community and how much we could grow from one another.”
It was barely a week and the members jumped into the thousands. “I was very surprised by the interest,” noted Denha. “I thought I would be lucky to have 500 women respond and join.”
“I became a part of the group after my friend Cindas invited me to join,” said Shannon Luther-Hanna. “At first, I was hesitant. I felt like maybe I didn’t “belong” being that I’m not Chaldean. I initially ignored the invite and she invited me again. So, I finally accepted the invite.”
The mother of two young girls is married to a Chaldean and often shares video posts while in the kitchen. “I began to browse the posts in the group and I really enjoyed the interaction between the women,” she said. “I decided to share a post of my attempt at cooking traditional Chaldean dishes. The love and support I received was just overwhelming.”
Moms of all backgrounds have joined the page including working and non-working moms like school teacher Zena Samona Ibrahim who has since taken time off to stay home with her son. “Nothing changes you like motherhood,” she said. “This Facebook page has brought a wide variety of resources to mothers from parenting styles, to cooking, cleaning, activity ideas and inspiration. Fellow moms are able to share stories, give advice, and sometimes share a few laughs.”
No one is certain of the page’s lifespan or how many members will end up in the group but it is still going strong today. “Truthfully, I’m shocked and humbled at where it’s at. If we could continue to grow at the pace we are growing, I will be very grateful,” said Denha. “As far as the sisterhood that the group has created, I would like to see it grow stronger. The page has a great following, I hope for it to continue with the same tone.”
Shortly after its inception, Lisa brought on administrators to help her manage the page including Yuma Telkepnetha and Khaltu Telkepnetha. Since then, there has been banter about the two and more so about Yuma.
Will members ever find out Yuma’s true identity? “Yes, I will tell you right now who she is; Yuma is you; She is every woman in that group. She represents the best in all the women in our community. That’s why it’s so great to keep her a mystery.”
Lisa noted that there have been more posts than she ever would have thought of that have shocked her. “I don’t feel like I’m old but I feel like I grew up in a generation that’s ancient now,” she said. “I am shocked and amazed at how much we have evolved as a community. What I am saddened with is, truthfully the loss of simple values that the majority of the women in the group are desperately trying to hold on to. There are so many that want to live in today’s society yet raise a family or be a part of something that defined our community.”
The page is about sharing life stories, ideas and challenges. “We are constantly stressing that we are here to uplift and promote,” said Denha. “So many have realized how much more alike we are than different. East side, west side, old, young, educated, not educated, mom, daughter, sister, friend and we all really are looking for the same thing. We just might get there by taking a different path. We really push for the page to be a judgement free zone.”
However, with 9000 plus different women, it’s a challenge. “Yuma sometimes has to take out the na’alta but for the most part, everyone wants to share in the sisterhood,” said Denha.
“I love that this is a platform where women can ask for help, advice, share stories of love and happiness, share stories of pain and healing and express their creativity and talents,” said Hanna. “There are so many different life experiences being brought to the table in this group of diverse women. There is a lot we can learn from each other here in this group. I know it’s offered an outlet to some women to initiate some serious conversations anonymously, that they wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable having. It’s allowed women of the Chaldean community to discuss topics that are considered “taboo” in the culture and get some much-needed support.”
Friendships are being formed. “I have made so many new connections that I never would have made without this group,” noted Hanna. “I feel honored to be a part of such a strong and talented group of women. They’ve shown me so much love and support.”
This page was created for moms. However, they have had an overwhelming number of women who are not mothers but wanted to share in the sisterhood and so, Denha and team decided to open the page to them. “Many of these women that do not have children are like mothers to someone,” said Denha. “Sometimes they don’t even know it.”
They have had many requests about changing the name but they are staying with Chaldean Moms of Metro Detroit. “It is the original name, and really part of what inspired me to create the group,” she said. “So with that being said, the name stays. I was fortunate enough to find very likeminded people like Khaltu to help me channel the page in the right direction. She is a longtime friend. I realize more and more everyday how alike we think, that it’s almost scary. She has been a huge asset on the page.”
The administrators are assisted by various women in the community who help manage the page. “We have grown to the point where we even have an IT girl, Rene Shaouni, to keep up with pages and files,” she noted. “It was a need that was evident and she offered to coordinate it for us since, Yuma and Khaltu – truthfully – have no idea how to do it.”
Not all members participate on a regular basis. “But, we do hear a lot of feedback from many in the community that are not active on the page,” said Denha. “We would like to invite those women to engage more on the page and less behind the scenes. Remember, if the page is inspirational enough to follow then support it along the way. You might have something that another could benefit from. Reminder to all, on the page, we promote to post with purpose.”
Lisa is now using the platform for a show to air on Facebook live called Mom to Mom. It is produced by ECRC’s Mar Toma Productions. “I just love it,” said Denha. “When I was approached by ECRC to run it LIVE on the Mom’s page, I felt honored that such a noteworthy organization felt we were credible enough to put our name on one of their productions. I love the show, I was also happy to see so many of our ‘sisters’ tune in and contribute to the topic via messenger.”
The point of airing the show LIVE on Facebook is to be able to tap into everyone’s thoughts. “I think the first episode was a success considering it was our first show and the panel prepped less than 60 minutes for it,” she said.
The show will air once a month LIVE on the Mom’s page and will be posted after on ECRC’s Facebook page.
The hope for the page is for it to continue to grow and stay as active as it has been. “I would hate to lose the sisterhood we have created,” said Denha. “For the show, I would love to see it address issues that our community views as taboo. As great as the Chaldean community is, there are so many problems out there that we tend to sweep under the rug. I hope that it can tap into the heart of someone to let them realize they are not alone. I appreciate that its aired live on the Mom’s page and our members can interact. I love that it’s bringing you different panel members for each episode to give you a different viewpoint. I always refer to it like the new and improved The View with a religious twist.”