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Ilma Paixao 2018 Massachusetts Mother of the Year

April 5, 2018


Meet Ilma Paixao 2018 Massachusetts Mother of the Year!

As one of five children growing up in a farming town in south-central Brazil, Ms. Paixao learned early on the challenges of losing a father to illness. To help provide for the family, Ms. Paixao began in elementary school to work in a factory where she observed workplace injuries and wage disputes being settled between employers and adult workers watching out for the youths’ interests. As a teenager, she completed a nursing program. She soon found her services in demand between two hospitals and mobile clinics. In a matter of three years, she assisted in obstetrics, surgery, and emergency room services. She was a trusted advisor to administrators and senior physicians who valued her willingness to express the concerns of patients and staff. Arriving in Massachusetts as a young woman, it did not take long for Ms. Paixao to put these skills to use. Early on she was identified by other Brazilian immigrants as a person to go to for problem resolution. At that time there were no social services prepared to assist Brazilians. Teachers, police, lawyers, and physicians had little or no experience with the rapidly growing Brazilian communities. Ms. Paixao stepped forward ad hoc to support parents in school settings, translate for residents in law offices, attend doctor visits to help clarify patients’ health histories, and assist local police in managing disputes. After several years, Ms. Paixao founded a non-profit organization whose mission included assisting Brazilians to help themselves while fostering opportunities to integrate into the greater community.

Ilma’s Parenting Philosophy:

“No” is not a final answer; it is a point of negotiation. My children were taught discipline within the context that their limitations were bound only by their moral compasses.

Teaching children right from wrong includes respecting themselves enough to respect others, their beliefs and their earnest expressions.

Regret no actions. Make informed decisions and be open to learning from your mistakes.

I make every decision and perform every act knowing and hoping my children will one day follow me.

The father of my children will always be their father – irrespective of the difficulties faced by the two of us as a formerly married couple. Even when matters worsened and I was forced to seek refuge in a family shelter, I insisted that the children maintain a relationship with their father.

This has allowed them to continue respecting him and seeing him as a caring – if mortal – human being. I knew I had lost my husband but I did not want my children to lose their father. (My former husband volunteered to co-write the attached letter of recommendation with our daughter.)

If you cannot do what you like, like what you do…and you will get there. (Do not be afraid to “Pay your dues.”)

We are all minorities in some sense at some time or another. Remember what it is like to be or feel excluded and accept others who are different and by virtue of that very difference may enrich your life.

Celebrate diversity. Embrace life and don’t be afraid to fly…

Ilma Serves Her Community:

Ilma has spearheaded many community initiatives, several of which are briefly listed here:

Ilma has been active in the area of healthcare,  procuring a grant from the American Cancer Society to consult more than a dozen church leaders throughout multiple communities to implement the first mammography outreach to Brazilian women in the U.S. She has helped procure a grant in partnership with Boston University to open the first Latin Health Clinic in Metrowest – the very first combined Latino and Brazilian community initiative. She consulted with Harvard University School of Public Health who produced the first demographic health study of Brazilians in the U.S. and assisted Metrowest Hospital in the recruitment of physicians from Brazil. Ilma also created an eye-care program for visually impaired women in Pernambuco, Brazil and organized the first Brazilian “Mother’s March Against Drugs.”

Ilma has promoted numerous Brazilian cultural activities across the region (dance, poetry, cuisine, music, martial arts, sports) and consulted with governors, mayors and immigration officials on human rights issues affecting Brazilians in the U.S. She has hosted the Chief of the Xucuru Tribe from Pernambuco, Brazil at a United Nations Forum on the rights of indigenous peoples and partnered with Framingham State University in that school’s first experience in hosting an assembly of foreign professors showcasing arts and sciences in their country to the American public

Ilma has also assisted communities in recruiting educators from Brazil for bi-lingual programs and partnered with MIT educators on creating a regional educational summit for students, parents and school. She founded Catolica University of Brazil’s first distance learning initiative in the U.S. and procured Harvard University literacy experts to train visiting Brazilian scholars on literacy projects combining art, music and language. She has served as a Fellow at MIT where she initiated community-development projects between the Brazilian Federal Government and educators from several countries. Ilma has worked closely with the Brazilian Consulate to set up distance voting stations for Brazilian citizens and consulted with the Department of Justice on civil rights issues and recruiting the first Brazilian American police officers in MetroWest.

Ilma Paixao continues to serve the greater community as Director of the WEBR radio station which espouses many of the same causes she has worked for over the years.

What Others are Saying About Ilma:

I run my own painting contracting business.  My sister is a successful marketing director at a small local microbrewery.   I can say unequivocally that without my mother and given the circumstances in which I was raised, I would be dead or in jail if it had been any other person.

But my mother does not just save lives.  She builds them. Countless lives are better because they have been touched by my mother.

There is not one person in Massachusetts who knows my mother – love her or hate her – who does not say that the community, the state and the world are a better place because of MY mom, ILMA NASCIMENTO PAIXAO. Daniel Kavanagh