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Suicide - when there is no hope and you are convinced those around you would be better off if you were dead. Srey Kuaj had reached this place. She was five months pregnant and her brother, who had raised her since their parents died of AIDS, was furious. She had tried to hang herself twice but her brother had intervened in time.

Srey Kuaj would have aborted if she could, but at five months it is illegal. Her brother wanted her to give the baby to another family once she delivered. Srey Kuaj was a minor, not very mature and there was no one to help her raise her child. She knew that her brother was right, but she wanted to keep her baby.

Full of shame for herself, the loss of face for her family, and knowing she couldn’t even keep the baby, Srey Kuaj could only think of death.

It is extraordinary how the most tenuous connections can avert a crisis. A moto taxi driver on the street heard outreach workers from another NGO speak of the suicidal girl. He referred her to Mother’s Heart.

Mother’s Heart arranged for Srey Kuaj to stay in a shelter for minors, receiving counseling, and under observation in case she tried to commit suicide again.

When she delivered, Srey Kuaj herself fell in love with her baby and her brother soon felt the same way. They simply could not picture giving the baby away.

Mother’s Heart helped with medical costs, counseling, housing, and food. Rather than find work Srey Kuaj wanted to return to the province to live with her older brother where she was reintegrated into her community. Mother’s Heart continued food and counseling support for her there.

It was on the second to last visit by Mother’s Heart staff that Srey Kuaj revealed the baby’s father was back. He had been working in Thailand. Although from the same town as Srey Kuaj, she hadn’t wanted this known in case her brother made trouble for this man and his family.

Srey Kuaj and her partner began to repair relationships – with each other and with his family, asking their forgiveness. The family invited Srey Kuaj to live with them so they could help look after their grandchild. They were so pleased to see how healthy and big the baby was and, like Srey Kuaj’s brother, were full of thanks to Mother’s Heart.

Now, Srey Kuaj is rebuilding her life. Her partner works hard, wanting what is best for Srey Kuaj and their child. There is a wedding on the way. Srey Kuaj will be marrying her partner and Mother’s Heart staff are invited!

To Mother’s Heart Srey Kuaj says, “I would have killed myself if I had not had your support and encouragement. I thank you. I thank you so much”.


Somphors (Senior Social Worker)

Somphors was with MH when supporting women and girls through crisis pregnancy was still in its conceptual stages. MH has been blessed that Somphors remains a member of the team through the years. She says, "I want to inform women about their options when they have a crisis pregnancy. I am so thrilled every time a client choose to keep her pregnancy!" Many of her clients visit her years later to thank her for her support and encouragement. "Sometimes the work is hard. I don't just counsel women and help them with their crisis pregnancies. I have to mediate family problems and help women through their traumas and additions too. It's such a joy to see these women with so many problems find their strengths and becomes amazing mothers." Somphors is a mother of two girls and is attending university classes to be a certified social worker.

Getting a mother to safely deliver her baby, helping her to stay off drugs or leave an abusive boyfriend, supporting a family to accept their pregnant child or foster her offspring, training these women in new employment skills, providing childcare while she does so…these are triumphs that cannot be done alone. What Mother’s Heart does, we do not do alone.

There is the courage of the women themselves of course, their families and communities. There are talented, persevering staff and partner NGOs. Always there is the Holy Spirit of God tugging us towards justice, hope and life. A contribution not so well known is that of the visiting teams, groups of people from around the world wishing to hear more about Mother’s Heart. They often bring gifts such as donations and baby clothes, but they bring a great deal more. Director, Katrina Gliddon says, “Their passion to see transformation in the lives of Cambodian women and their words of encouragement touch our hearts and humble us. We have a family of supporters around the globe”.

“Keep it up, you are all champions and I honour you all”, claims Venda. She found it particularly refreshing to see how Mother’s Heart works side by side with its partner NGOs to achieve a common goal and appreciates the value of holistic care. “We prayed with a young mum and afterwards she said to us with tears in her eyes, ‘I am not a Christian, but I can see God’s love through you and the way you are helping me.’ I was there and able to observe firsthand what you are all doing I can see that it’s working!”

Jonene noticed the lengths Mother’s Heart goes to help the expectant mothers. “The fact that they give continued support to the mother and baby until the child is 18 months old is amazing. This is an experience that I will hold forever.”

Contributing in a small way to creating a better life for the mothers and their babies has been rewarding for Christine. “Being able to raise funds, and visit Mothers Heart in Cambodia was one of the best experiences I have had.” A highlight for Christine was going to a province and observing how the kinship plan works. Grandmothers, aunts and extended family are part of the support plan for a mother unable to care for her baby. “I truly feel blessed that I was able to see exactly how Mothers Heart operates and to see where our fundraising efforts go. It has inspired me to do even more to help Katrina and her staff.”

Thanks to you dear visitors, the blessing is mutual.

Never underestimate the resiliency and determination some women have to become loving, responsible mothers. When women first come to Mother’s Heart, sometimes we have trouble picturing them ever being able to parent a baby. We have hope always but even we can underestimate what some women will draw on to change their lives.

Like many young rural women, Konika arrived in Phnom Penh at thirteen years old to work as a domestic servant in the home of a distant relative. The cultural expectation for Konika is that she will help with the family income and maybe her siblings can have a chance at education.

While there, her relative attempted to rape her.

For Konika this is equivalent to personal failure. Unmarried with possible loss of virginity leaves her without social status or value. This is virtually a ticket into the sex industry. Konika ran away and began work in a Phnom Penh red light area. Fellow sex workers usually help out by getting you started on yama, a euphoric methamphetamine that makes you more productive and helps you cope with unpleasant clients and long hours. It is also chronically addictive, suppresses appetite and withdrawal induces severe depression (Barrett, 2006).

Konika’s life became a pursuit of money to feed her habit and support her boyfriend. In and out of NGOs, different work places, and women’s shelters, Konika could cling to nothing strong enough to help her fight addiction and all that goes with life in sex work.

It was when she found out she was four months pregnant that change really began - not immediate or fast but it was there. She now had someone to live for. Konika found a shelter, returned to work, and connected with Mother’s Heart.

Trust did not come easily to Konika. Because of her previous haphazard interaction with NGOs, she automatically mistrusted Mother’s Heart staff. She gave most of her salary to her boyfriend and occasionally relapsed into drug use. Sick and malnourished, disinterested in taking medicine, Konika would fall asleep at counseling sessions. Yet the farther along she got in her pregnancy, the harder she tried.

It was at delivery that Konika really changed. A tiny, utterly dependent baby provided the way for Konika to trust, accept love and open up to Mother’s Heart staff. She came to see how others had tried to help her and that she was receiving true unconditional help now.

Drug use had impaired Konika’s memory and comprehension. An NGO graciously offered a trial period of vocational training in the hope that Konika could understand instructions and complete tasks. She did it. She passed her trial period and is now in full time training.

Konika has been transformed. So sullen and unresponsive to begin with she is an engaging young woman who gets along well with others, cares for herself and diligently cares for the baby who allowed her to discover the power of hope.

Barrett, M. E. (2006). Nature and Scope of Substance Use among Survivors of Exploitation in Cambodia: An Assessment.Phnom Penh: The Asia Foundation.

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