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Meet the Moms Behind Our Gorongosa

We work with some incredible mamas in the United States, Canada, and Mozambique. These talented women inspire us everyday for their dedication to making an impact in Gorongosa National Park and raising children who share their passion for people, wildlife, and the planet. For Mother’s Day, we asked a few of them to share what they love about motherhood and what they’ve learned from raising their kiddos. Read on for their responses!

Larissa and Ayo

Larissa Sousa
Communications Officer, Gorongosa National Park

How many children do you have?
I have a son named Ayodele (which means return of happiness) and he is 4 years old.

What do you love about being a mom?
I love everything about being a mom…the good times and the bad. It's just been an amazing journey being a mother, and I'm so thankful I have such a supportive and present partner. I love that suddenly I've become responsible for another human being for the rest of my life. I love seeing him grow up well and healthy, surrounded by family who love him to pieces, and are always there to help me when I need a break. I love being able to teach him everything I can and cannot — they say mothers give what they have and even what they don't. It's an indescribable feeling. I simply love being Ayodele's mom because he's just the most incredible part of me.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from being a mom?
Everyday I learn something new, with and because of him. I have learned to appreciate everything life brings my way and transform it into something good for a better future for him and all the children in the world. I'm very thankful for having my son as my teacher.

Emily and Leo

Emily Kiloh
PR Director, Our Gorongosa

How many children do you have?
I have a son named Leo who is 2 years old.

What do you love about being a mom?
I love getting to experience the wonders of the world through his eyes — everything is new and exciting! It's also incredible to see him learning and growing into his personality — and so far, Leo is vibrant, adventurous, and smart…with a touch of feisty!

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from being a mom?
I've learned so much in the short time I've been a mom! One big lesson I've learned is that you can't control anything except your thoughts and emotions. If you are expecting to control anything regarding your child, you're in for a lot of disappointment. I've also learned the power of patience (still learning!) — kids will learn and grow at their own pace, and it's not something to be interfered with or rushed.

Patty, Livie, and Callie

Patty Connor
Product Director, Our Gorongosa

How many children do you have?
I have two daughters. Livie is 6 years old and Callie is 4 years old.

What do you love about being a mom?
Witnessing my tiny humans evolve and develop their own unique (and often big) personalities! I love it when you can see their emerging senses of humour (even for bad jokes), unprompted acts of kindness, and sparks of creativity.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from being a mom?
There's nothing like parenthood to humble you!

Vania, Noyelle, and Etienne

Vania Cabral
Marketing and PR Coordinator, Our Gorongosa (Mozambique)

How many children do you have?
I have two kids, a boy and girl — Ettienne Dee Slevin and Nayolle Kaicy. They are 10 and 11.

What do you love about being a mom?
Being a mom is the most amazing experience I have had. When I first locked eyes with my son, my world completely changed and all kinds of feelings started to develop in that same moment. I was sitting on a bench with the other moms...we were all waiting for our babies and there he was all pink and chubby. We had all to start feeding and I really knew I needed to protect that baby.

Our journey started with our bumps and falls throughout, and all of sudden coming from I don't know where, my sweet princess came and our team was complete. She came and gave us her kind eyes and gentle voice. Having both babies so close to each other made me much more ready to do anything to protect these little souls.

I had never really thought about being a mom. I actually was more of a tomboy growing up and was never the mom when I was playing, always doing other things, and with them and because of them I have learned so much — I mean MUCH. I love the fact that I can be their friend and mom at the same time, I really like the way they look at me with so much expectation that it makes me feel like I can do anything. I love the fact I can see so much of me in them — good and bad — and now I really understand my own mom.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from being a mom?
Being a mom it humbles anyone. You start by knowing that you will be the center of everything for that person you brought to the world — all their meals, everything comes from you. You have to be involved in it all and need to give your best in every aspect.

I have learned to calm myself and do what is best for my kids even if that means swallowing some heavy frogs. I now know that I can't have my way in everything because most of the time my kids are my best teachers. I can see some results when they act kind and are considerate and respectful towards others, and I can also see myself in them.

But most of all, I am proud momma.

Jo and Raleigh

Jo Burgoon
General Manager, Our Gorongosa

How many children do you have?
I have a son, Raleigh, who is 9 years old.

What do you love about being a mom?
It pushes me to be a better person every day. When I became responsible (in part, I have an amazing husband) for developing another human it forced me to take a hard look at myself and the choices I make. I do love growing together.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from being a mom?
Everyday is just practice, and some days you perform better than others, and that is okay. Parenting isn't a game somebody is going to win, there isn't an end, parenting is finite and ever changing. When I embarked in this journey I was shooting for mastery. I've learned with every new developmental change my son goes through there is something new to learn and I never learn it all before he changes.

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