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 the Magdalena Huis, Boston, aims to focus on goals such as the improvement of maternal health, reducing child mortality, the prevention of 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 activities provided at the centre include antenatal care, baby care, birth preparation, handcrafts and food gardening. The programme runs over 12 weeks, with 10 girls taken in at a time.
The girls are referred by the 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 has 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 their 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 will eat all day.
“It’s hard when it comes to weekends as we worry about where they will get food from,” she said.
Magdalena Huis will host a fundraising gala event on Saturday August 13 at Eensgezind in Durbanville.
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 most expensive cost is transport.
“We fetch the girls from Bloekombos, Klipheuwel and Morning Star 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 also 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 facilitate heritage enquiries for people who have been adopted and want to trace their birth parents.
This process is facilitated by a specialised social worker.
The money raised at the gala event will go towards covering the costs relating to the adoptions, heritage enquiries and other running costs.
Magdalena Home Counselling Centre is a service of Badisa, a social service organisation.
The centre 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 is always in need of donations, specifically maternity wear, baby clothes and groceries.
* Anyone who would like to make a donation or volunteer can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021 948 3637.