A safe space for vulnerable moms

LIZAHN WENTZEL

The First 1 000 Days of Life project provides a safe and loving environment for pregnant girls and women in need.

The project, run by Magdalenahuis, in Boston, aims to improve maternal health, reduce child mortality and prevent teenage and unplanned pregnancies, while promoting an overall healthy lifestyle and early childhood development.

Programme manager Stephny du Plessis says they had to change the concept of this project over the past few years.

“We used to house the girls who needed a protected environment for themselves and their unborn babies, but the need became less as society changed. There was, however, still a need to provide these services to vulnerable pregnant girls and women.”

She added: “We realised that it was difficult for these girls to just leave their environment in the case of an unplanned or crisis pregnancy.

“We had to change the concept to that of a day-care programme, where they get to go home at night but also receive the assistance they need.”

The centre offers antenatal care, baby care, birth preparation, handcrafts and food gardening. The programme runs over 12 weeks, with 10 girls and women taken in at a time.

They are referred by nurses at local clinics and range in age from 14 to 43 years old.

Northern News sat down with some of those who are part of the programme.

Their names are not included to protect their identities.

One woman who recently gave birth said she had learnt a lot. She is in the ninth week of the programme.

“Many of us are facing similar problems and being here we can share our stories. It is a good environment and helps take you away from the stress at home.

“I can also take the skills I learnt to generate an income for myself.”

Another woman told Northern News that she feels at home at the centre.

She is expecting her seventh child and said initially she felt embarrassed about having so many children.

She worried about what people were saying about her.

“Now, I feel free and not worried about other people anymore. I am proud of my children and can take everything I learnt to be a better mother.”

Ms Du Plessis said Magdalenahuis’s vision is to support vulnerable pregnant women and children holistically.

“It is very important that they receive good nutrition and the necessary skills.

“The concept of the first 1 000 days is to ensure that both mommy and baby are healthy and taken care of.”

The participants also receive free transport to local health-care centres and two free meals a day, which, said Ms Du Plessis, is often the only food they would eat all day.

“It’s hard when it comes to weekends, as we worry about where they will get food from,” she said.

Magdalenahuis will hold a fundraiser at Eensgezind in Durbanville on Saturday August 13.

The centre receives partial funding from the state but relies heavily on fundraising.

The funds raised at this event will go towards the costs involved with running this day-care programme and other services they provide.

Ms Du Plessis said their biggest challenge and expense was transport.

“We fetch the girls from Bloekombos, Klipheuwel and Morningstar and take them to the local clinics.

“We also provide taxi fare for the girls coming from other areas in the northern suburbs.”

The centre runs an adoption service and offers support to girls in the programme who wish to give their babies up for adoption by covering the medical costs.

They also help people who have been adopted and want to trace their birth parents.

Magdalenahuis is a service of Badisa, a social service organisation.

It was established in 1902 by the Dutch Reformed Church in Wynberg and has helped around 5 000 pregnant girls and women.

Ms Du Plessis said the centre was always needed donations, specifically maternity wear, baby clothes and groceries.

* Anyone who would like to make a donation or volunteer can email info@magdalena.org.za or call 021 948 3637.