Nearly four years have passed since 16-year-old Layla Chami — lover of babies and pregnant women and her friends at Berkeley Preparatory School — died from leukemia.
This week, her dream to work with babies was rekindled, starting with a ribbon-cutting and butterfly release at 1516 E Eskimo Ave. Her parents, Maria and Tawfik Chami of Tampa Palms, thanked more than 100 supporters in attendance, many whom had helped build the childhood community learning center.
Soon, prenatal groups for expectant moms and baby boot camps for new dads will start at Layla's House. It is the first component of a Tampa YMCA initiative in Sulphur Springs called Neighborhood of Promise, which aims to support children from birth to college or a career. Layla's picture hangs to the left in the foyer.
Classes and support groups will encourage healthy relationships between parents and their children from birth to age 5. The program is based on research and designed to help babies thrive, said Liz Kennedy, the director.
It will offer support for healthy child development such as breast-feeding, she said, which is not as socially accepted in Sulphur Springs, according to Kennedy.
Tiffany Honors lives nearby and has watched as workers built Layla's House. She breast-feeds her baby, Ja'kii Washington, born two months ago. She and Ja'kii's father, Jay Washington, want to make the neighborhood a better place to raise a family, she said.
She is considering mentoring other moms at Layla's House.
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3431.