Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy

by Mother's Heart
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Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Family reconciliation
Family reconciliation

Dear supporters and friends near and far: These are challenging times for us all, and we hope you’re in good spirits and health!

 As COVID-19 continues to impact our everyday life, we thank you for your continuing support to Mother's Heart. We are doing everything possible to sustain daily operations and provide services to our beneficiaries and, at the same time, ensure they, and ourselves, are safe and healthy.

Although we have been quiet in the social media for a while, we are currently supporting 88 women and 78 children and babies. Five women entered our program in September and three babies were born. At the moment, there are also nine pregnant women waiting for delivery in the coming weeks.

There are four women in our women’s home (shelter) while three more women are in the care/shelter of our partner organization in Phnom Penh. Because most of the mothers are still unable to go back to work, we only have five children in our day care. When the country reopens and returns to normal in the near future, we are expecting more children in the day care. A total of 27 women are receiving receiving support in the form of monthly food packages (consisting of rice, canned goods, etc., plus sanitation items) and modest stipends (to help with their utilities). In addition, a partner organization in Battambang province is also supporting five of our beneficiaries there.

Despite the setback in the progress made by the women in our program due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the first six months of the year, we have seen cases of women whose families’ attitude and behavior towards their daughters' (being single and pregnant, or single mothers) have slowly changed towards understanding and acceptance.

One case is Marady (not her real name) and her baby who were recently reunited with her family after months of being indifferent and not wanting to communicate with her. Convincing her family, especially her father, was difficult. But in each meeting spanning more than 12 months, our social workers, counsellors, and our partners from the Phnom Penh social affairs department and the commune council for women and children had been really helpful in counselling and mediating between Marady and her family members.

When our team officially closed her case, her case workers met with her one last time and gave her a good send off.  She is now with her family, looking healthier and happier, and keeping herself busy in their family's business, while her parents and other family members are doting over her baby.

There is also Mony, a shy 15- year old girl who survived a traumatic experience in her young life that resulted in her crisis pregnancy. With Mother's Heart's support, she delivered a healthy baby boy and continues to receive support and services to complete her healing and recovery.

Due to her young age, the financial hardships of her family, and the stigma from villagers, Mony's baby was initially placed in a temporary foster care. Three months later, Mony was reunited with her baby, and Mother's Heart was there every step of the way working behind the scenes to ensure Mony and her baby have the support, protection, and care they needed for the reunification. However, Mony's story is far from over. Mother's Heart's social worker and counsellor continue to work with her to help her deal with the traumatic experience, and to follow through and provide support to her immediate and long-term needs.

All of these would not be possible without your support to our organization. On behalf of the women and children in our care, we thank you for your generous support to Mother’s Heart. There are countless other girls and women in Cambodia, like Marady and Mony, who have no access to crisis pregnancy services. Your donations to Mother’s Heart will give more vulnerable girls and women in crisis pregnancies access to critical support and services they need to heal, recover, and achieve stability for their and their babies’ future together.

Reintegration. Making sure the baby is accepted.
Reintegration. Making sure the baby is accepted.
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MH social worker distributing food support
MH social worker distributing food support

Chum riep soo, dear donors and supporters. I hope you all are keeping safe and healthy.  Here is our report for the second quarter of the year.

COVID-19 has continued to spread in Cambodia and showing no signs of abating. Cambodia was nearly COVID-free recording one of the smallest COVID-19 infections in the world but the numbers climbed from about 380 after a community incident in February, to 36,240 cases now with 289 recorded deaths (as of June 10), and a daily increase in infections numbering in the many hundreds.

By April, the government imposed a blanket lockdown after a steady increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in different areas (districts) of the capital Phnom Penh and neighbouring Takhmau city, many of which of which were related to the February incident. This resulted to the classification of areas in Phnom Penh by colours: red (severe outbreak), orange (moderate risk of infection), and yellow (low risk) zones. Immediately, travel and other activities were restricted.

The health and safety of our staff and beneficiaries remain as our main priority. As early as March, our staff have begun working from home until April when the city was placed in a lockdown. Our office in Phnom Penh, including our day care was temporarily closed and all the staff worked from home.  Residents in the capital and Takhmau were banned from leaving their homes unless they are essential workers or their purpose for going out is essential.

Nineteen (19) of our beneficiaries in Phnom Penh, many are in the red zones, were critically affected, having no access to work or sources of income and food due to the restrictions. Travelling during the lockdown period was also restricted, so delivering food support and services has been very challenging despite our staff having the necessary permits to travel. But we were able to deploy our social work team to provide support to our pregnant beneficiaries and deliver emergency food packages – rice, canned fish, baby milk formula, soaps, sanitary products, and a modest stipend.  We also received donations of rice, other food items and sanitary products from our local community that we distributed to our beneficiaries. We are also happy to report that 18 healthy babies were born during this period and the beneficiaries received food and other supplies for themselves, their babies, and their families.  We will continue to provide support until the restrictions are completely lifted, the women vaccinated, and are able to return to work.

There are also no infections amongst our staff, beneficiaries and their families. Most of the staff in Phnom Penh have completed our vaccinations while in Battambang are waiting for their appointments. Rollout of vaccines to the provinces have already began and we expect our staff will get their shots soon.

The lockdown has been lifted recently and the red zones have decreased. Because of this, the situation is now improving slowly and things are going back to normal. Wearing masks are still required in public areas. The government is also aggressively implementing a mass vaccination campaign in an effort to vaccinate 80% of the country. We are hopeful for better days to come.

The past months have been truly challenging as we continue to navigate through this uncertain time, we are truly grateful to have you on our side. Your donations have allowed us to continue to respond to the immediate needs of the women and children in our care and be able to accept more women into our program in the midst of a pandemic. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

MH foster mother receiving milk and food supplies
MH foster mother receiving milk and food supplies
MH shelter residents received food and other items
MH shelter residents received food and other items
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Thank you for standing with us.
Thank you for standing with us.

Highlights*
The year 2020 is a year like no other. It was a year that plunged the world in uncertainty, fear, loss, and challenges. It was also a year when we saw a lot of inspiring stories, of incredible people finding ways to connect and help each other. Through this generosity and connections, despite the COVID-19 pandemic in the background, Mother’s Heart was able to deliver the critical support services to the 92 women and 86 children in our Crisis Pregnancy Support Program  (in Phnom Penh and Battambang program office). This number includes the 35 women who entered our program and the 29 babies born in 2020.  In 2021, beginning in January up to the time of this writing, there are 10 newly-registered women and 4 babies born in our program in both offices.

*N.B.: Faces on the pictures have been blurred for privacy.

*** 

At the moment, Cambodia is experiencing the effects of what is called the “February 20 community event” which has seen the biggest number of positive COVID-19 cases linked to a  community outbreak to date. The news of the incident broke on Sunday 21st February 2021 and since then, a number of industries have announced temporary closures or changes to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in the capital and beyond. Based on media reports, positive COVID-19 cases have been registered in 8 provinces – Kandal, Sihanoukville, Prey Veng,  Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham,  Battambang, Siem Reap, and Koh Kong -  besides the capital city Phnom PenhCOVID-19. On March 11, Cambodia reported its first COVID-19-related death: a Cambodian man who was said to be exposed to his employer on Feb. 28. The total number of positive cases resulting from the February 20 community event is 751 and the national total to 1,264. 

As per government order, most of Mother’s Heart staff have resumed working from home again with only a few staff manning the office on a rotation-basis. This is the third community event in Cambodia and third time we are working from home. During the first event, we had some challenges in terms of communicating with our beneficiaries and providing face-to-face counselling but we were able to sort these things out so that in the succeeding incidents, we didn't encounter any major issues anymore. Some of our face-to-face interactions with beneficiaries (counselling) and partners (meetings) have either been postponed or moved to virtual communications or via mobile phones. House visits are only done when deemed critical or emergency cases such as serious physical and mental health conditions, signs of violenace or abuse at home, birth of babies, just to name a few. We are also temporarily closing our daycare centre in Phnom Penh but the staff are on-call in case a mother needed emergency child care support. Like previously, we are using mobile internet apps to communicate between staff and our beneficiaries. The distribution of food support, stipend, and sanitation and hygiene items continues every month. Our tuktuk drivers in Phnom Penh and Battambang offices deliver the food packages to beneficiaries who live far from the offices (especially in Battambang province since many of our beneficiaries live in remote villages). The others, who live close and are able to, pick it up themselves.  So far we have no reported positive COVID-19 cases amongst our beneficiaries as well as their family members and we hope to keep it this way. We continue to stress the importance of hand washing, wearing of facial masks, and the practice of social distancing if  there is a need for our staff and beneficiaries to go out of their houses. We also have telephone numbers list of staff and health centres and government dedicated phone lines to use in case any of the staff or beneficiaries experience the symptoms.


Stories from Mother’s Heart
When Sitha became pregnant, she remembered feeling like she had no hope left. But when she entered MHO, Sitha decided that she would take care of her baby no matter what. So she sat down with her case worker to help her make a plan for herself. She expressed her desire to learn and work after she delivered her baby.

After her baby was born, Sitha attended maternal educational classes at MHO and was able to participate in a skills training program. When older, her daughter started attending the MHO daycare centre. At first, her daughter spent her first few days in the daycare crying and didn’t want to participate in any of the activities. She wasn’t happy until her mother returned to pick her up. The daycare staff would provide her daughter with the comfort she needed and patiently engaged her in play,  conversations, or any other activities. Three months on and she is a completely different child. No more tears when Sitha leaves her in the daycare. Now, she is  enjoying stories, singing songs with the other children, and learning the many important skills.

Sitha is so thankful for the care and attention MHO are giving her daughter in daycare. She says that this has given her a peace of mind knowing that her child is in a safe, loving, learning environment, being cared for while she completes her training, and eventually attends work.


International Women’s Week Campaign
Mother’s Heart’s campaign has just concluded and we are in gratitude to those who participated and supported us for we had a successful run. We are happy to report that we have reached our target of $3,000 putting us in 11th place overall out of the more than 220 participating projects/organizations. Thank you for your generosity. Our work would not be possible without your continuing support and belief in our mission.

A beneficiary on her way to her health check.
A beneficiary on her way to her health check.
Children in the daycare enjoy listening to a story
Children in the daycare enjoy listening to a story
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Flooded roads in Battambang province.
Flooded roads in Battambang province.

Highlight: From January to October 2020, there is a total of 79 women and 68 children in Mother’s Heart Organization’s Crisis Pregnancy Support Program (CPSP). There are 38 new women who entered the program and 23 babies were born this year.

Last month, several provinces in Cambodia, including Battambang, and the capital Phnom Penh  were flooded due to excessive rainfall at the height of the rainy season. In Battambang province, 15 of our beneficiaries’ houses and crops were damaged by excessive floodwater. Out of the 15, seven of them needed immediate help as they lost most of their belongings in the flood. With additional support from our partners based in Battambang, we were able to provide our beneficiaries of with their immediate needs. All in all, the mothers and babies are safe and keeping well despite the natural calamity.

With the current slowdown of economic activity and loss of income compounded by the recent flooding, Mother’s Heart continues to distribute food packages and provide a modest stipend to ensure the women and their babies are well-nourished, healthy, and have roofs over their heads until the restrictions were lifted and they have access to employments again.

Our counselors have the important responsibility of providing counseling service to help each woman heal from emotional wounds, trauma, depression, and also from the insecurity and anxiety brought by COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though infection rates in Cambodia remain low and cases are mostly imported, the impacts of travel and movement restrictions imposed by the government suggests impacts to the women and children have been immense – on their livelihood, food security and nutrition, and their well-being. But, thanks to your continuing support, all the mothers and babies in our care are healthy, safe, and thriving despite the many impacts of the COVID-19 in Cambodia.

These are challenging times for us all. We are doing everything possible to sustain operations and provide services and support to our target beneficiaries.  Next month, Mother’s Heart will be taking part in GlobalGiving’s
#GivingTuesday campaign (December 1) and we hope you will be joining us. Your participation will go a really long way for Mother’s Heart to continue supporting women through crisis pregnancy.

Stories from Mother’s Heart

Last week, our Social Workers taught budget management class to six young mothers in our Crisis Pregnancy Support Program after several months of lockdown due to COVID-19. Panha was one of them.

Panha has a learning disability. Many people with learning disabilities in Cambodia do not have access to education, employment, nor control over their finances. Months after giving birth to a beautiful baby girl,  Mother's Heart supported her by providing her access to vocational skills training and found employment for her soon after.

The money management class is very beneficial for Panha to understand about money, how to handle money, including how to pay bills, planning their savings and spending, and how to keep her job. Our Social Workers ensure that the class is conducted with special consideration of her abilities, making it easier for her. They also regularly check on her progress at work and offer her encouragement and feedback. A young mother like her raising a child on her own needs to be supported to develop her skills.  Mother’s Heart believes that with the right support and guidance, Panha can live independently and better.

A small hut in the middle of a flooded field.
A small hut in the middle of a flooded field.
Closer view of a house in floodwater.
Closer view of a house in floodwater.
Teaching young mothers money management.
Teaching young mothers money management.
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Sambo thanks donors and supporters
Sambo thanks donors and supporters

Highlight: From January to June 2020, there is a total of 51 women and 48 children in Mother’s Heart Organization’s Crisis Pregnancy Support Program (CPSP). Of the 51 women, 9 cases have been closed as they have already achieved independence and no longer needed Mother’s Heart’s support. There were also 7 new women registered in our CPSP. During the same period, 6 babies were born.

As COVID-19 makes it way around the globe, millions have been infected with the virus and effective treatments and vaccines are still beyond our reach. All of us are impacted  by this pandemic and no doubt has put the already vulnerable population at even more risk.

As soon as COVID-19 started spreading rapidly, Mother’s Heart Organization took steps to protect the health and safety of our staff, beneficiaries, and community.  This includes setting up a precautionary plan/guidelines, including assembling the key members of the senior management team to man the office on a rotation basis and requiring the rest of the staff to work from home. The plan was to move forward yet continue our activities and maintain impact to our clients and community in a remote context.

In March, just within two weeks of the government’s imposition of travel and movement restrictions, 12 of our beneficiaries lost their jobs and their sources of income. Mother’s Heart acted swiftly to provide emergency support packages (food and stipend for rentals and utilities) to our beneficiaries and their families. The daily social distancing and increase in shutdowns of more and more avenues of employment meant more and more of our beneficiaries are losing their financial independence and the means to support their families during this time.  

Every month, beginning in March, our beneficiaries received food packages,  including 15kgs of rice and other food items, and a modest stipend to help cover rentals and utilities.  This support will continue for as long as our beneficiaries need it, or when access to employment resumes. While this means an unexpected increase in current and foreseeable future expenses as for our organization, we must provide support for as long as it takes.  This activity is critical and has impacted our already tight budget this year, but we will continue to find support for this.

Following the guidelines by the Cambodian Ministry of Health and WHO, Mother’s Heart temporarily halted field activities as well as face-to-face counselling and maternal education trainings. Due to the large part of the work is on-going psycho-social counselling that require face-to-face interactions,  our staff members reach out to our beneficiaries regularly by mobile phone instead. For health checks and other medical requirements, our staff members accompany our beneficiaries to hospitals and health centers following safety precautions.

The uncertainty and fear brought about by COVID-19 has impacted our beneficiaries as it threatened to be a backward step to the progress they’ve already made or working on before the worldwide outbreak happened. These regular phone calls are critical in ensuring that the young mothers don’t feel isolated, alone and insecure; and in helping them manage their expectations, feelings and emotions. We also monitor if they and their babies are well-fed, safe, and secure while weathering this health crisis. We also continue provide them with protective masks, alcohol, hand sanitizer and cleaning kits to accompany our information-dissemination activity to protect themselves and their children from getting the virus, as well as resources on what to do and where to go in case they start having the symptoms.

As of 14th of July, there have been 165 recorded COVID-19 cases in Cambodia. No deaths have been reported. As restrictions ease, air border has been opened and airports resume operations. While public and private educational institutions are still closed, more and more commercial establishments have started re-opening and slowly returning to normal activities, or rather, what is the new normal these days. We have seen some of our beneficiaries return to work, others are still waiting for their employers’ call or are being assisted by our staff members in finding new employment.  Our maternal education trainings and other activities will resume slowly with  utmost safety precautions. We are also fortunate that, so far, there have been no infections amongst our beneficiaries and our staff. For this we are grateful, and we are taking all the precautions we can to maintain this while we continue our work.

Mother’s Heart would like to mention our gratitude to donors and supporters who took it upon themselves to support our emergency response activities. We are grateful to you, our supportive community, inside and outside of the country, who have stepped up to the plate and helped raise funds,  our July Bonus Day donors,  and those who provided in-kind donations. On top of these, we also appreciate very much the encouragement you are giving us. Your efforts are truly inspiring and are helping our beneficiaries go through this crisis, especially when funds are tight.

***
Last month, we celebrated our 10th year anniversary. From a small team of 4, Mother’s Heart began operations in 2010 in a rented apartment. That year, there were 7 women in our care. Over the years, our Crisis Pregnancy Support Program was developed and improved that it is at the forefront of maternal and infant health and preventing mother-child separation in Cambodia. Over the years, hundreds of young vulnerable women came through our doors bringing with them their stories. The women’s stories differ but one thing they have in common is that they are in crisis. Our work ensures that when they get step out of our doors, they are more secure, more stable, and have the capacity and capability to raise their babies independently than when they walked in.  In 2017, we opened our second office in Battambang province to reach out to many women in need without leaving their homes and support system.

We could have not accomplished all of these without you, our donors and supporters. On behalf of the women and children whose lives you have touched and helped transform, and from all of us at Mother’s Heart Organization, we thank you so very much from the bottom of our hearts.

Thank you for all the provisions and support.
Thank you for all the provisions and support.
Psycho-social counselling and support packages.
Psycho-social counselling and support packages.
Mother's Heart staff souvenir photo
Mother's Heart staff souvenir photo
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Organization Information

Mother's Heart

Location: Phnom Penh - Cambodia
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @MHOCambodia
Project Leader:
Zarah Jane Rushworth
Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh Cambodia
$144,550 raised of $350,000 goal
 
856 donations
$205,450 to go
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