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Crossing borders, overcoming obstacles, starting life over again in a new country. WYSO's radio series The Bind That Ties brings you the stories of immigrants from around the Miami Valley.

The Bind That Ties: Severa Mwiza And Gabriela Pickett

Severa Mwiza and Gabriela Pickett
courtesy of Severa Mwiza and Gabriela Pickett
Severa Mwiza and Gabriela Pickett

In part three of The Bind that Ties, we hear two women who are such good friends, they call themselves twin sisters – even though Gabriela Pickett is from Mexico and Severa Mwiza is from Rwanda.


Severa Mwiza: I'm Severa Mwiza. I come from Rwanda, I'm 64. And I have six children, eight grandchildren. I've lived in Dayton for 20 years.

Gabriela Pickett: I am Severa's twin sister, Gabriela Pickett. I was born in Mexico. I've been living in Dayton for 20 years and I am 25 plus a little bit more years old. And I am also happy to be here with my sister.

Severa Mwiza: Yeah, what I love about you is that you understand me. You know that for me time is elastic, and all the time I'll be late. But that's the way I am, You take me the way I am.

Gabriela Pickett: But you're not late. You're just running on Severa's time. So I just had to adjust my life to Severa's time. And that's not important to me. I think there's so many things that I like about you. I always say that you're my twin sister and when people look at us like, I don't know, you're like a foot taller than me and your skin is a little bit darker than mine. And we look different because I was born five minutes after Severa, so she, by default, is older than me.

Severa Mwiza: You remember that girl who believed it?

Gabriela Pickett: Oh, that was a beautiful story. When we were in Mexico and this indigenous girl was looking at Severa and she had never seen somebody so tall and majestic and I said, she's my twin sister, and that girl was really confused because I look more like her than, you know, I look like you. And so I just proceeded to say, well, I said Severa was born five minutes before me and that's why we look a little bit different. And in her mind, something clicked and she said, "I get it now. She was born at night and you were born in the morning. That's why you look different," and I said exactly.

Severa Mwiza: Yeah! In your blood, you have this thing of helping others before you help yourself.

Gabriela Pickett: Well, that runs in the family because you have it, too. One of the things that I admire about you is that you had been going through so much of the adversity in life, and instead of looking at yourself as another victim in a pool of people, you see yourself as a person who landed there by accident. And there's a lot of people around you that were having a tough time and you feel like it's your job to help them. You never see yourself as the victim. You have always seen yourself as the person that was put in there to help other people. That's something that I find amazing, and that's why we got together and formed this nonprofit to sell items and send the money back to Africa. And to me, it has been so rewarding to be able to meet some of the people that you have helped. That really means a lot to me.

Severa Mwiza: Yeah. Our parents were helping people so I think it's in our blood.

Gabriela Pickett: Maybe

Severa Mwiza: Yes. We love people.

Gabriela Pickett: That's why I love you, sis.

This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO and was edited by Community Voices producer Mojgan Samardar.

Mojgan started her full-time work after completing a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence. After a very successful 28 year career as a technical geek, she retired in 2017. While working she attended community voices weekend classes in 2014 and graduated as a Community Voice producer for WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. After retirement, Mojgan’s turned to the arts and volunteering activities. She proposed creating community voices stories to highlight immigrants’ voices and contributions in the Miami valley. Her first season production of “The Bind that Ties” in 2020 won first prize in the Radio Documentary of the Associated Press. Season two of the series was broadcast in 2022.